[SIR MARK HENDRICK in the Chair]
I beg to move,
That this House has considered the matter of tackling fly-tipping and illegal dumping.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Mark. I am grateful for the time to discuss this important issue.
“And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!”
My choir-singing days are long behind me, but that famous hymn and poem appropriately captures the idyllic nature of our beautiful nation. However, I dread to imagine what William Blake would think today if he could see the mattresses strewn along our country lanes, the rubbish along our high streets or the old, broken televisions and fridges dumped at the side of the road, which is what we are here to discuss today. I asked for this debate because I have been shocked by the level of littering and fly-tipping, and I am sure every colleague will agree that it is a blight on our environment and undermines our communities.
I thank the hon. Member for that intervention, and I hope she will be pleasantly surprised as I progress through my speech.
We can all agree that we ought to be able to enjoy wherever it is we call home without the scourge of fly-tipping scarring our landscape. In 2021 alone, there were more than 1.1 million fly-tipping incidents in England, which is more than 129 a minute and a 16% increase on the year before. This is a crime that feeds antisocial behaviour and can lead to serious environmental and public health damage, especially when something such as medical waste is dumped.
I congratulate the hon. Member on his opening speech and thank him for giving way. Not only does fly-tipping cause issues for the environment, but there is the cost to local authorities, which have to pay to get the rubbish removed. Does he agree that we need more preventive and deterrent mechanisms? Local authorities could have services to remove waste, and we could have more CCTV so that we can catch fly-tipping offenders.
I worry that the hon. Member has seen a copy of my speech, but I am sure that she, too, will be pleased to hear what I call for.
Fly-tipping is indiscriminate. In my constituency, for example, the northern, more urbanised parts experience fly-tipping as much as the southern, more rural areas. This crime has serious economic costs, with the total cost of fly-tipping to the taxpayer estimated at £400 million. The number of large fly-tipping incidents, or tipper lorry loads as they are called, is 39,000 in total. The cost of clearance to local authorities last year was £11.6 million—an increase from £10.9 million in 2019-20.
I also asked for this debate because I want to recognise the social damage of fly-tipping. If levelling up is to mean anything, we require investment in our communities, while also instilling pride and empowering local organisations and our parish councils to tackle fly-tipping. Nothing says “We don’t care” more than when we let communities descend into becoming havens for fly-tipping and the related antisocial behaviour. Ultimately, that disenfranchises whole communities. Our communities need to know that we stand for them. That is why I stand here today calling for us to reinvigorate our war on fly-tipping.
I want to take a moment to recognise the fantastic contributions of organisations across my constituency, which continuously remind me of the community spirit that protects our villages, towns and homes. In particular, I thank my parish councils, which have continuously raised this issue with me, including Barston, Hampton-in-Arden, Castle Bromwich, Chadwick End, Tidbury Green, Dickens Heath, Balsall Common, Berkswell, and Bickenhill and Marston Green. I also thank Catherine-de-Barnes Residents’ Association, Clean & Green, the Knowle Society, the Balsall Common Litter Pickers, the Hampton-in-Arden Wombles and Love Solihull, which all supported and took part in my Keep Meriden Tidy initiative last year. In addition, I thank the litter-picking groups in Dorridge, the Marston Green Wombles and the many individuals and organisations up and down the constituency that take time out and volunteer to make their villages and town centres beautiful and safe places to live, work and play. These organisations and people need our support. In fact, when I went around picking litter as part of my Keep Meriden Tidy initiative last year, numerous bags were filled. Shopping trolleys were extracted from streams, and there was a real risk of finding unsavoury items such as knives, syringes or worse.
That brings me to my first ask of the Minister: has she considered the role of community organisations in dealing with fly-tipping? Has she considered working with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to examine whether further powers could be given to parish councils to deal with fly-tipping and litter? I am aware that she takes this issue incredibly seriously, and I know that the Government are also serious about tackling fly-tipping, recognising the social, economic and environmental risk that it poses.
I welcome the establishment of the Joint Unit for Waste Crime, which is designed to disrupt serious and organised crime around fly-tipping. It works jointly with the National Crime Agency, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the Environment Agency and the police. Moreover, I recognise the great achievement that is the Environment Act 2021, which introduced new powers to gain evidence and enter sites.
I am also aware of the consultation on fly-tipping, which is ongoing. Can the Minister reassure my constituents and others affected by fly-tipping that the consultation will lead to serious and meaningful change? Of course, I implore everyone to take part in it and to share their ideas, which leads me to ask the Minister and the Department what thought has been given to providing more fly-tipping education for the public? I ask that because that was a specific request from some of my constituents when I visited Balsall Common.
Of course, we have fantastic campaigns, such as Keep Britain Tidy, but the more, the merrier. That is why I will embark on another Keep Meriden Tidy campaign, not least because we have the Commonwealth games in my constituency. With over a billion eyes watching our beautiful region, I intend to play my part in keeping it that way.
One aspect of dealing with fly-tipping I have not yet touched on is enforcement. The greatest source of frustration for many of my constituents is the feeling that they can do everything they can, including reporting the fly-tippers, but the level of enforcement in no way matches their hard work, and prosecutions that would deter fly-tipping are just too rare. In short, Minister, too many fly-tippers are getting away with it.
Recently, I was pleased to see that there was a fly-tipping intervention grant, but I must ask whether there will be more rounds and more money, because I am keen for my constituents to benefit from any future rounds. Can the Minister also confirm that she is talking to local councils, or the relevant Department, to ensure that local councils have the means to tackle fly-tipping? In addition, can she confirm that she is talking to the policing Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse), to beef up enforcement by the police? One of my greatest fears is that my law-abiding constituents are put at risk by dangerous fly-tippers, who are sometimes involved with organised crime, and that the police are not able to do enough to tackle the problem. For example, farmers in my constituency are often at particular risk, because the very nature of rural areas means that it takes longer to get police support. They are particularly worried about confronting these criminals and about the personal risk to them and their families if they do intervene.
Of course I understand that the Government have many demands on their resources, so one suggestion I have for the Treasury is that if fines are issued to fly-tippers—frankly, there should be larger fines—the money should be fed back into parish councils so that they can have the resources to deter further dumping of illegal waste.
I thank my hon. Friend for securing this important debate and for his important contribution. However, does he recognise that one of the problems is fly-tipping on private land, such as that owned by Network Rail or the Highways Agency? We need the Government to put pressure on those agencies to clear up more quickly. The frustration for a lot of my constituents is that when they want Network Rail to clear up fly-tipping, it takes me three months to get it to do that. That is why we need some help from the Government.
My hon. Friend makes a valid point, and I am sure the Minister will have taken note of it.
The village of Barston is a particularly beautiful part of my constituency; it was recently voted one of the most desirable villages in the country. The parish council bought its own automatic number plate recognition cameras, and it monitors who enters Barston, with the data being shared with the police when fly-tipping incidents occur. I am also aware of private businesses working with other parish councils to help fund ANPR cameras. Will the Minister consider incentivising private business to work with parish councils to empower them to tackle fly-tipping? When fly-tippers are identified, our hard-working police need to have the resources to go after the criminals so that they can meaningfully deter fly-tipping.
I am pleased that the Government are looking at electronically tracking waste. The majority of fly-tipping is household waste, but we could still go further and make it easier for residents to dispose of rubbish. One idea that intrigues me is the use of mobile recycling vehicles, which play a positive role in other communities in increasing recycling rates and reducing fly-tipping. The Minister’s support to engage in that would be greatly welcome.
The next time we hear about walking upon England’s mountains green and England’s pleasant pastures seen, let us make sure that they are seen and that this country is seen for the beautiful place it is, rather than as one covered by the eyesore of fly-tipping and illegal dumping.
Thank you, Mr Bhatti. I am conscious of the number of Members who want to speak, so I will bring in a time limit of four minutes. I ask that anybody who wishes to make interventions should make them short and sharp so as not to take too much time away from others who want to make a contribution.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Mark. As a newly elected Member, this is my first time speaking in Westminster Hall, and I am very pleased to be here. I congratulate the hon. Member for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti) on securing this important debate.
I have come here to do what lots of people accuse politicians of doing every day: to talk rubbish. But on a serious note, fly-tipping and illegal dumping are a huge problem in my constituency: Slade Road in Stockland Green, Frederick Road in Gravelly Hill and Farnborough Fields in Castle Vale are particularly badly hit, to name just a few.
My hon. Friend is making an important point about just how much fly-tipping there is across her constituency. It is also a massive issue in my constituency, whether in Radford, Chapelfields or Allesley. I am sure she also receives dozens of emails from constituents who are tired of rubbish being thrown on the floor. Given that it has become increasingly difficult for local authorities such as my council in Coventry to adequately fund the removal of fly-tipping waste because of the budget cuts over the past 12 years, does she agree that the Government need to do more to support local councils to ensure that they have the necessary resources to address this important issue?
I absolutely agree that that needs to happen.
Reports of fly-tipping are increasing across the country. In Birmingham alone, the council received 38,142 reports of fly-tipping between May 2021 and May 2022. Fly-tipping is against the Brummie spirit. Our Labour council has been right to take a zero-tolerance approach, introducing a £400 fixed penalty notice for everyone caught dumping rubbish illegally. It has successfully taken some of the most serious offenders to court, but the increasing demand for enforcement action is coming after almost a decade of austerity-driven cuts. Those have created the most challenging period in the council’s history, as funding for vital services has been cut by a staggering £775 million since 2010.
We have some amazing local organisations in our community, such as the Erdington Litter Busters, who are doing their bit to tackle illegal dumping, but we should not have to rely on community groups to make our streets cleaner and greener. It is clear that councils need more resources, and I hope the Minister will be able to outline today specific support to help our local authorities tackle fly-tipping, because it has become an epidemic.
I want to turn to a specific issue blighting our constituency, which indirectly leads to fly-tipping and illegal dumping. In Erdington, the community has seen an alarming increase in houses in multiple occupation and exempt accommodation, with the second-highest level in the city. One example is Kings Road in Stockland Green, where more than 27 out of 85 houses are in multiple occupancy. With such a high concentration of properties, which can often be full of strangers, some in large families or with complex mental health issues, it is no surprise that we have seen an increase in antisocial behaviour, drug dealing and fly-tipping.
Birmingham City Council has once again done what it can, by applying for a selective landlord licensing scheme to be introduced in 25 of the 69 wards in the city. The largest landlord licensing application in the country, Birmingham’s scheme has not yet been approved by the Government. I hope the Minister will indicate today that the Government will give it the green light, as that will greatly help the council to tackle rogue landlords and, in turn, reduce fly-tipping in our area.
I would like to finish by saying something positive. I welcomed the Government’s announcement in March that they plan to introduce minimum standards for properties in the private rented sector, and new powers for local authorities to clamp down on rogue landlords. As ever, the devil is in the detail, and I hope the Minister can elaborate on those plans in today’s debate, as all those measures will help to reduce fly-tipping.
As a former councillor in Birmingham, I know how much the local authority is crying out for more powers and funding to help it beat the curse of illegal rubbish being dumped in our communities. It is such a huge problem in my constituency that tackling it will be one of my key priorities in Parliament. Today, we need the resources from the Government, not hot air and empty promises.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Mark. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti) for securing this important debate. We can see from the number of Members in attendance how significant this issue is across our constituencies. This debate is important for me because certain areas in my constituency are plagued by fly-tippers. As many have said, fly-tipping and illegal dumping can ruin the experience of residents and visitors.
The Worth valley in my constituency, one of the most beautiful parts of the country, is the place that inspired the Brontë sisters and is home to some of Yorkshire’s finest tourist attractions. Too often, when one drives through this rural landscape, bin bags, discarded objects and even hazardous material can be seen dumped and discarded at the side of the road.
Only in April this year, hundreds of dumped tyres were found on Nab Water Lane in Oxenhope in the middle of the Worth valley. In November last year, a large number of household waste items, such as mattresses, cots and bags of rubbish, were dumped in East Morton cemetery, near Riddlesden, where Captain Sir Tom Moore is buried. It is an absolute disgrace that individuals feel they can get away with that. In April 2021, 225 tyres were dumped on the top of Ilkley Moor. That illustrates that we are not talking about little bits of rubbish being dumped here and there. This is organised crime, which we must get on top of.
This is not just happening in the rural parts of my constituency. In the centre of Keighley, some of the back streets, particularly the back lane to Cavendish Street, are hard hit, with residents finding numerous bits of dumped rubbish. That causes huge amounts of havoc and distress for many people living and working in the area.
The figures stand out. Nationally, 1.13 million incidents of fly-tipping have been recognised over the past year. Within the Bradford district alone, last year there were 2,000 fly-tipping incidents, with 50 fly-tipping fixed penalty notices given out and five vehicles that had been involved in environmental crime seized. In Keighley itself, 2,500 fly-tipping incidents have been reported over the past two and a half years. Keighley Central ward had the highest number, with 771 recorded; it was closely followed by the Worth valley—one of the most rural parts of the constituency—which saw 522.
We have to get to grips with this problem and get on top of it. Funding is absolutely vital, but we also need a name-and-shame strategy. To hold these individuals to account, let us have the names of anyone who gets a fixed penalty notice branded across the constituency. We have had Travellers visit Ilkley and leave behind huge amounts of vegetation—green waste. They have clearly gone around the town, approached residents and asked how much they can pay to get rid of their green waste, and then they have left it on private and council property so that the taxpayer has to pay to get rid of it. This cannot continue.
We also need to be smarter about installing more CCTV cameras and using technology to investigate and explore the rubbish that has been dumped so that we can work back and hold those criminals to account, in order to get on top of this horrendous issue that blights us all.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Mark, and a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Keighley (Robbie Moore). I congratulate the hon. Member for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti) on securing this important debate. It is nice to see my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mrs Hamilton) in her place.
In the past year, more than 5,500 reports of fly-tipping were submitted by people across Barnsley—almost double the number from the year before. Fly-tipping does not just ruin local communities; it can be hazardous and toxic and can feed into serious organised crime. Thanks to the efforts of Barnsley Council, its #EverybodyThink campaign and local residents, fly-tipping has decreased in recent months. However, if we are to tackle this issue at its root, more must be done at a national level to support local authorities.
Barnsley’s council budget has been devastated by some of the largest cuts in the country; it has been subject to cuts of 40% since 2010. Although the council is already stretched, the removal of fly-tipped waste is costing it nearly £200,000 a year. It might sound good for the Government to speak of transferring power to councils to deal with problems such as fly-tipping, but that is futile if, in reality, councils are left without the resources to provide proper solutions. I ask the Minister what the Government are doing to ensure local authorities get all the support they need.
For private landowners who fall victim to fly-tipping, funding the proper disposal of waste can be really expensive; if it was not, the waste would likely not have been dumped in the first place. This can lead landowners to resort to poor methods of disposal—such as setting fire to or burying rubbish—which can cause damage to local habitats and local people’s health.
To prevent that, the Government might look at encouraging other areas to replicate the successful pilot carried out by the Hertfordshire police and crime commissioner. His annual fund of £20,000 supports private landowners with paying for the removal of fly-tipping, using funds from the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. That allows waste to be processed properly for the benefit of the whole community. I also echo the calls that have been made in the debate for tougher enforcement.
The problem with fly-tipping is that it can easily snowball. The more people see it, the easier it is to believe that it is acceptable behaviour and the less incentive there is to maintain cleanliness. To stop this problem from spiralling, we need to make proper disposal as easy as possible and offending as difficult as possible. That could start with ensuring that houses in multiple occupancy have enough wheelie bin space for all who live there. It could also mean placing obligations on those who sell large household items to offer or direct to services that dispose of old fridges, mattresses and the like when customers buy new ones.
Education is crucial. People should be fully informed about how everything in their house should be thrown away, as well as how to check for a proper waste carrier licence; that would prevent unsuspecting households from funding illegitimate services run by criminals. We are all familiar with what a driver’s licence or a registered taxi looks like, so there is no reason why we cannot be taught to recognise a waste carrier licence. In that vein, steps should be taken to strengthen the process for obtaining a waste carrier licence, so that background checks are carried out in more cases and licences are less easily replicated. If we make offending hard, dealing with waste through simple, proper disposal will not feel like such a burden for businesses or homes.
Fly-tipping is a blight on communities such as Barnsley but, fortunately, solving it is in everyone’s best interests. There are lots of local groups across Barnsley who work hard, mainly with volunteers, to keep Barnsley tidy and clean. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to them all, because we all lose when the hard-earned money that we pay in taxes goes towards removing dumped rubbish. We all lose when habitats are lost and our environment becomes dirty, and we all lose when criminals are allowed to run riot in our towns. With the right support from Government and the right changes across the country, there is no reason why we cannot put an end to this terrible practice; we need to do so.
It is a delight to speak in the debate, Sir Mark, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti) for securing it. I had quite a long speech, but I will cut it down to just a few pertinent points. I ought to declare that I am still a borough councillor with Charnwood Borough Council. I will talk about some of the good things and some of the bad things happening in our area with fly-tipping.
First, I want to focus on farmers. Farmers in my area are blighted by fly-tipping, particularly on the margins of the constituency and the county—I am on the edge of the county. There is frequent fly-tipping on Charley Road in Shepshed, for example, which causes farmers great distress and rather a lot of expenditure. Betty Hensers Lane in Mountsorrel is also frequently blighted. Incidents like those that my hon. Friend described involving lorry loads—he referred to them as tipper trucks—happen often throughout Charnwood, both in my constituency and in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar). To deter fly-tippers, farmers are resorting to drastic measures such as blockading gates and field entrances with machinery and other items, and installing lights and security cameras—all at their own expense. That is something I would like to look at with the Minister, please.
There is good news, however. Charnwood Borough Council has been running a campaign called “Don’t muck around”, and I was the lead member for four years. We did all sorts of things. We had posters where dogs were, dare I say it—am I going to be the first Member to say “pooing” in Hansard?—pooing, to show that people should pick it up and take it away themselves. We had 38 flags in Sileby football pitch identifying pieces of dog poo across a pitch that kids were playing on every weekend; it was terrible.
The council does wonderful things to do with littering, fly-tipping and dog mess, and I absolutely take my hat off to the street management team, who work very hard. The council holds a rubbish amnesty day at the end of every student year. As the students leave, a rubbish truck comes round and takes the rubbish away, which is great. That does not happen in all cases, but it does in the majority. At the beginning of the year, during freshers’ week, the council gives out advice on what to do with rubbish, because people come from different parts of the country, where rubbish is dealt with differently.
There are those kinds of concerns, but I am most concerned about the impact on farmers. Aliens do not come down and fly-tip rubbish on our country. I therefore ask that everybody deals with their own rubbish as much as possible. If everybody did that, we would not have fly-tipping, littering or dog mess across the country.
A point was made earlier about ensuring that carriers do, in fact, have waste licences and are not dumping waste elsewhere. I suggest that littering from moving vehicles, including from the backs of open trucks, should be heavily fined to deter people from leaving detritus in our towns and on our highways.
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.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Mark. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti) on securing this debate. Although these issues are devolved, it is right that in our UK Parliament, Members representing all constituencies have the opportunity to raise concerns about their local areas.
Fly-tipping is a major issue in Moray, as it is in other parts of the country. In 2016-17, there were 139 reported incidents of fly-tipping in Moray, but the most recent figures show that in 2020-21 the number had risen to 402. For a very remote and rural area, that is a high number of incidents. Local people rightly complain about them, and, as we have heard, people have to pay for them.
At the same time, according to freedom of information figures from Moray Council, in 2016-17 seven people received fixed penalty notices. Despite the fact that the number of incidents has more than doubled in the period to 2021-22, only 16 fixed penalty notices were issued in the most recent year. It is a serious concern that the people responsible for these illegal dumping and fly-tipping activities are not being held accountable for their actions.
My hon. Friend spoke about mattresses, and others have talked about more toxic items that are illegally discarded. That is important, because although any material discarded in this way is unsightly, in some cases it is also extremely dangerous. Some time ago, in Tugnet near Spey bay in Moray, people dumped a large amount of asbestos, which is clearly dangerous for anyone who goes near it and hazardous to the officials from the council who had to go along to clear it.
I am pleased that we had excellent local government results at the start of this month in Moray, where the Conservatives are now in charge—every one of our candidates was elected, while the SNP went backwards. In response to another FOI request, Moray Council could not tell us how much is spent on clearing up this waste, so I hope the new administration in Moray will put out more knowledge about the cost to the council. The public deserve to know how much their local authority is spending on clearing up waste in their area.
The last thing I want to speak about today is a consultation that has just closed in Scotland on a new fly-tipping Bill, which is being brought forward by my Scottish Conservative colleague Murdo Fraser MSP. The legislation in Scotland has not changed since 1990, and we have seen no action from the SNP on this issue over their 15 years in power. That is why the Scottish Conservatives are leading this charge. The consultation closed last night with 190 responses, which were overwhelmingly positive about new legislation coming forward. The Bill would ensure better data collection and reporting mechanisms for fly-tipping in communities, and it would ensure that the land or property owner is not responsible for clearing it up. We have heard time and time again today about the cost to innocent people, and therefore we as Scottish Conservatives want far more onus to be placed on finding the perpetrators and making sure they pay for clearing up.
My plea to the Minister is that she joins the growing list of people supporting this legislation in Scotland. Scottish Land & Estates has said:
“We were pleased to help Mr Fraser develop his Member’s Bill and strongly support the Bill’s intentions to rid Scotland of fly-tipping once and for all”,
and Robin Traquair, vice-president of National Farmers Union Scotland, has said:
“Fly-tipping is such a major issue across Scotland that action needs to be taken to change the law when it comes to dealing with those responsible. Such positive action to tackle fly-tipping, through this Private Member’s Bill, is something NFU Scotland would fully support.”
I hope that today, we also get the support of a UK Government Minister, because this is legislation that we need in Scotland.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Mark, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (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 the Member for Peterborough (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.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Mark. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti) on securing this important debate.
Fly-tipping is a consistent problem in Peterborough. Two years ago I raised the local issues in my constituency at length in an Adjournment debate. I am sick to death of seeing hotspots in my constituency. The junction between Norwood Lane and Newborough Road is a particular problem. As many hon. Members have said, the question is not whether this is an urban or rural issue—it affects both settings. Urban communities such as Bretton and Ravensthorpe in my constituency are plagued by it, as are rural villages such as Thorney and Newborough.
I will not take up Members’ time by talking at length, not least because the issues from two years ago have not changed. We need more powers to combat fly-tipping. Along with others, I called for higher fines beyond the current fixed penalty notice limits, argued for a zero-tolerance approach, made the case for new Government guidance, and suggested better tools and resources for local authorities. The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow), expressed lots of sympathy, noted that the legal issues involved were complicated, cited some positive-sounding statistics, and urged patience. To her credit, since then enforcement action has risen, but so have incidents of fly-tipping. We need the online fly-tipping toolkit. Much of the guidance still offers less than zero tolerance.
Since taking over this brief, my the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill) has announced that people will no longer have to pay to dispose of DIY waste, which will make a real difference. She has also advanced the move towards digital waste tracking, with powers and penalties to match. I gather that the first element of the toolkit is near to launch, which is music to my ears. She has also questioned whether fixed penalty notice fines are high enough to act as a deterrent. I welcome what she has done, but I also pass on to her the desire of my constituents in Peterborough for the Government to keep going, and to go further.
One easy step would be to revise the two guidance documents that I cited two years ago: “Fly-tipping: council responsibilities” and “Household waste duty of care: fixed penalty notice guidance”. They have not changed. The language and direction could be far more robust, and they are far from the only instances. Moreover, I understand that that upping the penalty limits would require legislation, so I hope that the Minister will look at whether that can be done.
As has been said, fly-tipping is often the result of organised crime. That is absolutely right. It is often the case in rural settings and we need to crack down on it. Enough is enough. Our communities should no longer be used as dumping grounds. We need zero tolerance, stricter fines, CCTV enforcement and stronger guidance from the Government. Fly-tipping blights too many of our communities. It is time for us to act and to start driving the number of incidents down.
It is a real honour to speak in this important debate, Sir Mark. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti) on securing it. I should declare an interest as a former councillor for many years.
I think we are on a journey. When I first got elected as a lowly parish councillor in 2004, recycling was nowhere near as good as it is today, so I congratulate constituents up and down the country for doing the right thing. My own council, the Three Rivers District Council, is the third best performing council in the country for recycling, so I wish to put on the record my thanks to my constituents for doing the right thing.
As others have said, illegal fly-tipping can cause significant damage, especially to local wildlife but also to the perception of communities. My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) referred to Network Rail. The speed at which fly-tipped waste is collected can have a detrimental effect. If we do not encourage all actors to quickly resolve the issue, there can be a spiral of disrepair.
I represent South West Hertfordshire, a beautiful constituency that is about 80% green belt. Others have spoken about the cost to private landlords when fly-tipping takes place on their land. This Government and previous Administrations have done a lot of work on this issue, such as confiscating vehicles found guilty of crime, but more can be done. Part of that, as others have said, is education. I had a constituent who was a victim of beer barrels being fly-tipped. The local council claimed that it was investigating, but it ended up that the constituent spoke to the offender, during a time when they were undergoing radiotherapy. That should not have had to happen. There is always a human victim at the end of this crime. The land can be blighted, but it is the landowner or occupier who has to deal with the issue.
The private sector is also affected. Waste collectors that do the job properly get targeted or associated with the poor performers. I know that they are proud of their industry. I am really keen for the cost base to remain low; we need to make sure that where businesses are doing the right thing, we congratulate them. This place is one of many where we are able to do so.
I welcome the Government’s April announcement on new council grants and a specific focus on new technology, the use of CCTV and ANPR cameras, and education. The hon. Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) mentioned the police and crime commissioner in Hertfordshire. Buckinghamshire, just across the way from me, has extended its funding to local councils. I hope that Hertfordshire councils—district, borough and the county council—can look into doing a bit more.
The Government have adopted new technology with new applications coming out. I look forward to investigating that more. I am a firm believer that the world evolves and it is right that the Government lead those conversations. The consultation published last month on the change in household waste recycling centres is really important. The past two years have seen a lot of homeowners redevelop their own homes. Having a cheap and easy way of making best use of waste facilities is good.
I am conscious of time, so I will wrap up. I congratulate the Minister on the excellent work that she continues to do in this area.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Mark. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti) on securing this debate.
We have heard already about the impact of fly-tipping right across the country. We have heard how it blights communities and disrupts people’s lives. In South Staffordshire, sadly, we often have to deal with industrial-scale fly-tipping—not just a mattress, sofa or small items of building products, but large truckloads abandoned in woods and on the roadside. That has an enormously high cost, be that for the landowner or the local authority. Even more importantly, it blights the local community in such a dreadful way.
We know that the cost of disposal is high. For an individual or an authority that has to dispose of fly-tipped goods, the average cost is £800. The Minister will probably talk about the large fines that can be levied on fly-tippers—she will probably mention that a fine of up to £50,000 can be levied. If she does, I hope she also mentions how many individuals have been charged that top fine of £50,000. I know that in the past it has been exceptionally rare, so I hope she will cover that.
A few years ago, the Government made an important move by giving local authorities the ability to levy on-the-spot fines. That had an initial impact, but it does not go far enough. The largest fine they can levy is £500. As has already been touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall), the cost of actually bringing a prosecution averages between £1,500 and £2,000. The investment that needs to be made by local authorities to catch these criminals can often be substantial.
I would like to make a suggestion to my hon. Friend the Minister. As she will be aware, the Queen’s Speech included the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill. What better way to level up and improve communities than by having that Bill address fly-tipping? I suggest to the Minister—she could go back to the Department and claim that this is all her own work—that the limit for on-the-spot fines levied by local authorities should be increased dramatically to £5,000. People who dump rubbish would then feel the pain for causing disturbance, nuisance and vandalism to our countryside.
Will the Minister also consider amending legislation so as to enable local authorities to make better use of closed-circuit television in a concealed environment? So often, fly-tipping occurs regularly in spots across the countryside because they are conveniently located close to main arterial roads. Changing the legislation to enable local authorities to make better use of concealed CCTV would have an enormous impact by increasing the number of fly-tippers they could catch. It would allow local authorities to keep those fines, creating the incentive to go after the fly-tippers.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Mark. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti) on securing this debate on an issue that is so important to his constituents and to all of us here.
Fly-tipping is a perennial problem in Sevenoaks and Swanley. In the last year alone, we have had 1,600 incidents —one of the highest numbers I have heard today. Some of them have been dangerous. Similar to the example given by my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Douglas Ross), we have had asbestos dumped in Ash, which led to a road being blocked off for two weeks. We have had dangerous waste dumped in Shoreham Lane, leading to farm animals eating it and dying. We have had horse corpses dumped on land. On some occasions, they were dying horses, which was very distressing for everybody involved. We have had rubbish dumped in Horton Kirby and Fawkham, which obviously caused huge issues for people just trying to go about their daily business. This is an issue that absolutely needs resolving.
The good news is that, in Sevenoaks and Swanley, Sevenoaks District Council has done a huge amount of very good work focusing on enforcement. I am pleased to say that we are, I think, the only district council in Kent that has a dedicated fly-tipping enforcement agency, which has worked very hard to secure prosecutions this year. We have had eight criminal prosecutions, I think, and about 50 fixed penalty notices and lots more statutory warnings.
Just last Friday, a case was prosecuted against someone who had fly-tipped five times. He received a 12-month community order and was ordered to pay £3,000 in compensation to Kent County Council and £250 to Sevenoaks District Council. These fines are not enough to deter people, especially repeat offenders such as the one I just mentioned. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Gavin Williamson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall) were absolutely right that we need to focus on not only the maximum level but how much local authorities are able to get back from people who carry out these irritating crimes that are causing such a blight on our communities.
We also need to focus on the role of the Environment Agency. According to the National Audit Office, the number of Environment Agency prosecutions for waste crime has dropped from nearly 800 a year in 2007-08 to about 50 a year in 2017-18. The Minister will tell us whether that trend is reflected in the current figures—I do not have those for this year—but it seems worrying and we should act quickly to address it.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes about compensation for councils so that they recoup their fees when they prosecute such cases. It is just not economical for them to do so, because they recoup only 40% of their fees on average. Sevenoaks District Council spent £23,000 on this matter last year. We need to do more to support councils that are trying to do the right thing by addressing this blight on our communities.
I will leave my remarks there. I am grateful to the Minister for all her work—I know that she is focused on this matter—but the strength of feeling in the debate shows that more needs to be done.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Mark. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti) on securing the debate, and I welcome the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mrs Hamilton) to Westminster Hall for the first time.
I speak as a former Cornwall councillor and as the Member representing Truro and Falmouth in Cornwall, where fly-tipping is a major concern, as it is in the other constituencies we have heard about in the debate. I regularly hold beach cleans and litter picks around the coastline and throughout the countryside—we are deeply saddened to see our beauty spots stained by the irresponsible dumping of household goods—and I thank my parish and town councils and the volunteers who take part every day. In Cornwall, it feels like it is in our DNA to pick up litter where we see it.
Fly-tipping is a significant blight on the environment. It is a source of pollution and a potential danger to public health, and it costs council tax payers vast sums every year. Every year, Cornwall Council spends an estimated £250,000 on clearing up waste that has been tipped around the duchy. It is no wonder that the people of Truro and Falmouth have had enough.
Unlike some who have spoken, I will not name our hotspots, and I hope that hon. Members will understand why. My hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall) spoke about the national trend, but in Cornwall we have seen a decrease in our instances of fly-tipping since the pandemic. In 2018, we had just over 4,500 instances throughout the whole of Cornwall, while last year, we had just over 3,000. I am pleased to say that that is because we now have a Conservative council that is actually tackling the issue, and I thank everybody involved at the council—the officers and the councillors—for their incredible hard work.
The council’s strong joint-working relationship with the waste contractor means that it now has many individuals on the ground to help to gather evidence. The council has also trained town and parish councils on how to report instances of fly-tipping, ensuring that they provide sufficient information for cases to be investigated and that partner organisations are credible witnesses when they identify fly-tipping.
Council officers also undertake surveillance operations in known fly-tip hotspots, using camera equipment. The council successfully prosecuted a persistent fly-tipper in February 2022 following a surveillance operation—the prosecution resulted in fines and costs of £7,348—and further operations are being organised. Although that is positive progress, nobody should fly-tip at all, and that is why we still have much work to do.
I will not repeat the calls for the Government to act, because I know that we all feel the same way, but I support the calls from the National Farmers Union for effective punishments to deter criminals from dumping waste illegally. That could be achieved by developing further guidance so that effective punishments can be delivered when prosecuting, which would support our farmers and landowners. That would include raising awareness of offences that affect rural and coastal communities in particular, and working with those who bring cases to court to ensure that they make full use of the range of sentencing powers available to them.
In addition, I support the NFU’s calls for the development of a single reporting mechanism so that farmers and land managers have to report a fly-tipping incident only once. Currently, victims often need to report incidents to multiple authorities, which is frustrating and time-consuming for busy farmers. Such a mechanism would ensure that the correct authority is informed and that feedback is available following each report. I stress that I also support the call for increased fines, but I will let the Minister address that because I know that she has already heard the call from colleagues today.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Mark. It is good to see so many colleagues in the Chamber, especially Government Members who are joining us in our plea for the Government to go further and faster in tackling the crime of fly-tipping and illegal dumping.
This is the first time I have spoken in the House since the election of a Labour Government in Australia, and I know the Minister will join me in wishing the new Prime Minister well on such a fantastic result. He is a friend to many in this place, including Adam Jogee in my team. Focusing on tackling the climate emergency worked down under, and I look forward to seeing the same thing happen here—and, of course, I am hoping for the same result here in the next election.
I thank the hon. Member for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti) for calling this debate and providing the House with the opportunity to address our collective responsibility for preserving our country, protecting our environment and leaving our planet for the next generation. His predecessor, Dame Caroline Spelman, was of course Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the coalition Government, so his constituency has a keen interest in these matters. It has been clearly highlighted that many other constituencies across the UK do too, and the public are keen to do whatever they can to help. We have already heard about the Wombles and the litter-pickers across the UK. In Newport West, Malpas, Duffryn, Rogerstone and Graig all have litter-pickers out in regular occurrence. Our “road to nowhere”, which was a fly-tipping nightmare, has now been transformed into a road to nature, which is brilliant.
Hon. Members have rightly raised the scourge of waste in their communities, not just today but in many previous debates. Until Ministers step up and give councils the resources they need to keep our communities clean and safe, Members will continue to raise this issue and seek help, change and assistance. Thanks to a lost decade of Tory austerity, plastic waste is piling up on high streets and street corners, and in our green open spaces. Moreover, it is being exported to some of the world’s poorest countries, where what was supposed to be recycled material ends up in landfill, polluting our oceans. It is then shipped back to Britain for us to deal with. This is a very real problem, and it requires speedy, comprehensive and properly funded solutions.
The hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Laura Trott) highlighted the decrease in prosecutions by the Environment Agency. There is a reason for that: these agencies have been underfunded and understaffed for many years, and they have struggled to tackle waste crime and monitor waste exports because of the cuts to their budgets and staff numbers. We all know the impact that austerity has had on local government.
Hon. Members from across the House, including those who represent areas such as Meriden, have stories of how their local councils are struggling to deal with waste effectively, while being forced to cut waste collections. Labour believes that we need a more circular economy in the United Kingdom. The raw materials used to create our products should increasingly come from recycling our waste. Indeed, a Labour Government would take on the global waste crisis by investing in a new plastics recycling and remanufacturing industry, creating thousands of jobs, ending exports of plastic waste and reducing our contribution to ocean pollution.
I am sure the Minister knows that in England, the total volume of aggregate waste increased by 12% between 2010 and 2018. I speak to the House from a Welsh perspective: recycling must outpace the growth in consumption. That is a very simple sum that must add up.
Despite the new powers on waste targets in the Environment Act 2021, I am afraid that the Government have delayed the roll-out of important areas of extended producer responsibility, including the scheme administrators and fee modulation. The current inadequacies of waste collection and recycling systems mean that used compostable packaging tends to end up in either landfill or incineration, or it messes up recycling plants because some of the materials used can be as resistant to degrading in the sea as conventional plastics.
I do not want to show the Minister up, but I have to talk about the Welsh Labour Government, because Wales has been a standout performer in the UK when it comes to recycling rates and tackling waste pollution. The Welsh Labour Government have invested £1 billion since devolution in household recycling, and that has helped Wales’s recycling rates catapult from just 4.8% in 1998 to over 65% in 2021. The latest national recycling figures for Wales showed that we recycled 65.4% of our local authority-collected waste in 2020-21. Eighteen of 22 local authorities in Wales exceeded the statutory minimum target, and 13 reported an increase in performance on the previous year. The next statutory minimum target of 70% by 2024-25 has already been achieved by Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Conwy and Vale of Glamorgan. If the hon. Member for Meriden is hoping to find solutions to tackle waste pollution in his constituency, I urge him to look to Wales.
There are a couple of further points of interest. On the international dimension, since China banned the import of waste, illegal exports to other countries appear to be on the rise. I wonder why that is. England does not have the necessary waste and recycling infrastructure. I am afraid that has been made much worse by the soft-on-crime Conservatives, whose savage cuts have caused Environment Agency inspections and enforcement action to plummet since 2010.
When trying to stop waste and fly-tipping in our communities, it is worth looking at the provision for a deposit return scheme in Environment Act. That is limited to certain materials, rather than creating a framework that could be broadened to include more types of plastics or bioplastics in future. We know that deposit return schemes work successfully in other countries. We made it clear throughout Committee stage of the Environment Act that Labour supports a scheme funded by retailers and producers that collects plastic bottles, metal cans and single-use and reusable glass.
This is about pride and who we are as a country. For all the points we have raised about how to tackle the issue, we cannot ignore behaviour change. Waste does not just appear; it is caused by us all—everyday people going about our lives. That is why it is key that alongside all the enforcement, policies and decision making here in this place, we keep the focus on educating people. As my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) said, education is key. That starts with how we preserve our planet by disposing of waste properly and safely, and includes why we all benefit from seeing and living on clean streets.
I hope the Minister will provide some answers to my questions. What are her plans to extend the deposit return scheme in the way Labour suggested? What discussions have taken place with the Treasury and the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities about ensuring that councils have the resources they need to tackle waste pollution? What lessons have been picked up from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland about their approach to tackling toxic waste, fly-tipping and waste pollution? Those are simple questions and I hope the Minister will be able to give some answers.
I thank you, Sir Mark, for an interesting debate, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Meriden for bringing it to the Chamber.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Mark. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti) and all right hon. and hon. Members who have come to this Chamber to tell us forcefully that we need to keep our foot to the floor on fly-tipping. It blights all our communities across the country, from Wales to the east of England and from Scotland to Cornwall, but we have heard glimmers of where working together can start to deliver change.
I hope to go over some of the things that my hon. Friend raised and to outline a little more how we are driving forward in some of these areas. As many Members touched upon, and as the head of the Environment Agency said, waste crime is the new narcotics. There is a lot of money in it, and it drives antisocial behaviour. While I am here, I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mrs Hamilton) on her powerful contribution, and her council on being one that really does drive forward those enforcement measures and ensure that people receive the full force of what we are able to do, in telling them that it is not good enough to litter communities and to fly-tip.
The Government have been taking significant action and are committed to stamping out fly-tipping. I share everyone else’s abhorrence of it. It blights communities and the environment. It is extremely impactful on animals and, as we have heard, on human health on occasion. As my hon. Friends the Members for Sevenoaks (Laura Trott) and for Moray (Douglas Ross) said, some of the things that are dumped are completely unacceptable.
Fly-tipping has been debated in the House in previous years. Since then, we have made significant progress and we have given local authorities and regulators new tools to tackle the menace, but we need them to use their powers. It is not enough to keep a cookery book closed; it has to be opened for the joys to be discovered. If councils really want to help us with fly-tipping, they must take every ability we have given them to beat it. We have strengthened powers to search and seize the vehicles of suspected fly-tippers. We have legislated to introduce fixed penalty notices for fly-tipping and for householders who give their waste to fly-tippers. The hon. Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) mentioned the need to make sure that licences are checked. Actually, that is a householder’s responsibility, but not everybody knows that they have to do that. As that system becomes electronic, it will be considerably easier for people to go online—like we do with other things—and check the licence. If somebody does not have the appropriate waste carrier licence, they should not be used for waste disposal.
It is important to ensure that everybody is up to date. For example, if a kettle breaks down, as a small electronic good it can be taken back to the retailer and they will get rid of it. Not everybody is aware of that, so they can be seen littered across our countryside. I am due to meet with manufacturers of mattresses on 6 June, because of mattress mountains—I think it was my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Paul Bristow) who mentioned mattresses being dumped. It is a problem up and down the land. Extended producer responsibility is slowly going through, but I want to see manufacturers coming forward and voluntarily saying what they will do with their items. The paint manufacturing industry recently came to me because it has developed a scheme in Cambridgeshire, which I hope to see, where paint can be taken back to any retailer.
Along with things like the DIY consultation, which we will be completing shortly, it is important that people have options with what to do with their waste. The majority of fly-tipping is the size of a small van or the boot of a car. It is small scale, notwithstanding what my right hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Gavin Williamson) said was happening in some areas of the country. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Robbie Moore) mentioned tyres. With particular items, we are having to drill down on how we tackle them.
The Minister made the strong point that it is important for local authorities to take responsibility and to use the powers that they have as effectively as possible. Is she willing to consider the prospect of increasing the amount of the fixed penalty fine that they can levy? I think it is currently set at £500. Could that be increased substantially?
Fixed penalty notices are currently set at £400. Local authorities can issue fines of up to £400 to fly-tippers and householders who pass their waste on to those who are not licensed. I will take that point away, because my right hon. Friend is not the first to say that perhaps the fine is not high enough. However, some councils do not even use the powers that they have to fine people up to £400. I really urge people to use everything we have given them.
I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but just to go back, she was talking about the need for licensing for waste clearers. However, in some instances, it is quite easy to get a licence. It needs to be more rigorous. How do we make sure it is not too easy for someone who commits a crime, or actually fly-tips, to apply and be given a licence?
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 the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), who is no longer present, asked for a similar approach with Network Rail. It is about us joining up. My hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (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 the hon. Member for Newport West (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. The hon. Member for Hyndburn (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.
Does the Minister agree that the Government should name and shame councils that are not issuing fixed penalty notices when concerns are being raised by their constituents? Does she also agree that the individuals who are fined and receive fixed penalty notices should be named and shamed in the public domain?
We are straying into sentencing and so on, which does not come under my Department. Much of what has been spoken about today involves me talking to colleagues in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and so on. However, I will take away those questions, because I think it is right that the fine should fit the crime. Those discussions are ongoing.
We are looking to improve the environmental quality of all our communities. We have more ambitious plans, such as introducing the deposit return scheme to ensure that billions more drink bottles and cans are safely returned and recycled, and to ensure that the recyclate coming from that is of a better quality, so that it can enter a circular economy. I fully agree that that is what we should be aiming for. As I say, we have spoken to National Highways to tackle the scourge of roadside litter, and to the Ministry of Justice to support the community payback schemes that have been so fantastic at cleaning up some of our communities. We also want to explore what more can be done on sentencing for more serious waste-related crimes.
As part of wider reforms, extended producer responsibility will move the cost of the disposal of packaging in street bins from local taxpayers and residents on to the producer. I am sure that that strikes us all as fairer. These measures will have an enormous impact on plastic and other litter that we see on our streets, in our and in our waterways. To support innovative local action, in 2012 we commissioned the Waste and Resources Action Programme to administer the fly-tipping intervention grant scheme on our behalf. That was the grant of £450,000, which many Members mentioned, to enable a number of councils to implement a range of measures to tackle fly-tipping. Projects being funded include a combination of artificial intelligence and APNR cameras in Buckingham, the trial of “No bags on the street” in Newham, CCTV enforcement in Durham, and directing offenders to a digital education tool. I am pleased to say that we are looking to extend that grant, and I will be giving more details. It has been very popular, and many councils wish they could have availed themselves of it.
We also recognise the importance of local residents being able to dispose of rubbish in a responsible, simple way. We are working with councils on legislative powers to bring in consistent collections to make the system easier. We are consulting on preventing charges for DIY waste because, as many Members have said, that is a problem that blights neighbourhoods. We are also seeking views on household waste recycling centres because, again, some behaviours have changed over the past two years with the covid pandemic. As we have seen, that has led to a rise in some of the behaviours that we want to drum down on.
The Minister talked about recycling centres, and earlier somebody mentioned mobile recycling centres. Has the Minister done any evaluation of mobile recycling centres? In Birmingham, they have proved exceptionally successful. It would be interesting to find out what work is being done to support local authorities to expand that type of scheme.
I thank the hon. Lady. I made notes during the debate and can see everybody’s constituency highlighted, but I cannot see who mentioned mobile collections. That is a fascinating idea to explore a little more, particularly for items that are difficult to recycle, such as lithium batteries. Having a small van where those items can be left might work very well. Was it my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden who mentioned mobile collections?
I am sure I will pick that up with my hon. Friend after the debate.
DEFRA continues to chair the National Fly-Tipping Prevention Group, through which we work with a wide range of interested parties, such as local authorities, the police, the Environment Agency and the National Farmers Union, to disseminate good education and learning. My own farmers have spoken to me at length about it, so I know they will be pleased to hear that my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden highlighted how farmers’ land is blighted across the country. This is a rural crime, and many of us understand the impact it has on farmers and businesses, because they are obliged to clear it up when it is on their land.
We are currently working with the NFTPG to develop a fly-tipping toolkit to share best practice. That toolkit will ensure that people can present robust cases to the courts to support tougher sentences. We intend to deliver that shortly. We have already started working on the next element of the toolkit: how councils can set up and run an effective fly-tipping partnership. We expect to have that published before the end of the year.
We recently concluded two online consultations on how to tackle waste crime while supporting people and businesses to manage waste correctly. I fully agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South West Hertfordshire (Mr Mohindra) that we must support businesses that are doing the right thing. Those are the ones that we do not want to be penalised because others do things badly. We will reform and strengthen the waste carriers, brokers and dealers regime by moving it to a permit-based system, increasing competence and the background checks required to move or trade waste. We are taking forward the introduction of mandatory digital waste tracking, which will also help us to detect, enforce and prosecute, as the hon. Member for Barnsley East pointed out. I hope that it is clear that we are taking extensive action to tackle the scourge of fly-tipping. That action, along with the tireless work of local authorities and many other community organisations, will deliver significant results.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden once again, and I also thank the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire, and my hon. Friends the Members for Keighley, for Loughborough (Jane Hunt), for Hyndburn, for Moray, for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall), for Peterborough, for South West Hertfordshire, for Truro and Falmouth and for Sevenoaks. They are literally from the top to the bottom of our beautiful country—
“This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself.”
That is the rest of the quote given by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes. Let us ensure that we sort this out and do the right thing.
Thank you for your chairmanship, Sir Mark. I hope that you found the debate as important and fascinating as I did. Clearly, we have a range from William Blake, to Shakespeare, to poo today, which is quite poetic in itself. I thank hon. and right hon. Members from across the House for their contributions to the debate. I am sure that their constituents will be incredibly proud of how they have stood up for them today.
I welcome my neighbour, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mrs Hamilton), to her first Westminster Hall debate. She talked about austerity, but I would gently remind her about the negotiations around the bin strikes that happened, and what that led to. However, I am sure we will have lots of sparring time in the Chamber, and I look forward to that, as I am sure she does.
I thank the Minister for her response. In the research that I did, there were plenty of Hansard contributions that demonstrated her determination to deal with this issue, and I thank her for that. I am pleased to hear about the further funding intentions, and that she will also think about the mobile recycling units, which I am very keen to pursue for my own council.
I will keep my remarks very short, but given the strength of feeling, I am sure the Government have taken a strong steer and that the message will go back. I thank my very noble and committed parish councils and the community groups I have named. They inspire me every day to keep Meriden clean and tidy.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered the matter of tackling fly-tipping and illegal dumping.