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Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment (Amendment) Bill [HL]

Volume 747: debated on Friday 19 July 2013

Second Reading

Moved by

My Lords, this is a relatively simple Bill that began in my life almost as soon as I joined the House 50 years ago. One of the things that I found, not having rubber soles on my shoes, was that when walking backwards and forwards as a most junior Member I collected a large amount of chewing gum on my feet. I have never chewed gum and I find it extremely difficult to get rid of. Some time later, I was asked whether I would make an issue of it, because I did not smoke or chew gum. I asked a simple Question on chewing gum, way back in, I suppose, 2009, which the Government could not answer.

Chewing gum and cigarettes are defined as litter under the 1990 Act, and litter is what we have been debating today. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Marlesford for there being enough people to discuss the subject, because there is no need for an enormous Second Reading debate about something that is quite obvious. It is simply a matter of considering what regulations could be introduced to make the system work.

I suppose that I ought to try to explain to your Lordships why chewing gum and cigarettes—or rather the nuisance value they create—are of such importance. Chewing gum is used by 28 million people in the United Kingdom. One might have thought, when smoking was restricted, that cigarettes would become less of a problem. However, they are still more than a problem, with 200 million cigarette butts thrown away each day in the United Kingdom. More than 1 billion packs of chewing gum are sold every year, and chewing gum and cigarettes account for 40% of street litter. However, it is small litter, which is irritating. The problem is that the gum sticks to the paving stones, and 92% of all paving stones have had gum on them.

When I started on this issue, I suggested to Black Rod that we should make Parliament a chewing gum-free zone. I produced some posters to go outside and suggested that there should be little bins in which to put things. I did not get very far. There was a cynical look on his face, as there usually is when I make cynical suggestions.

I then set out on a campaign. I realised that most cigarette butts and gum appear near public buildings. In fact, there is a conflict of interest in that we want more and more people, particularly tourists, to visit public buildings but we therefore have more and more gum. I was moved out of the third floor here a little while ago because my room was too hot and too small and I was given a grand office in Millbank, which I share with my noble friend Lord Coe. He is never there, so I have a larger office than I am probably entitled to. I found walking backwards and forwards a bit of a nuisance, and sometimes it took longer than six minutes if you were going to avoid being run over on the way. I therefore started to think of other things to do and began counting the number of blobs of chewing gum on the pavement between here and 1 Millbank. The largest number I found was 1,020—roughly five or six per square foot.

This is not necessarily the fault of the chewing gum people. I discussed this issue with Wrigley, which immediately thought that we were trying to get rid of chewing gum. However, Wrigley advised me only yesterday that it is fairly far advanced in producing a biodegradable gum—gum currently takes five years to degrade. Removing the gum is quite an expensive exercise. Up to 3.5 billion deposits of gum have been either spat or dropped on to the streets. For an average town centre, the cost of cleaning it up is only about £20,000 but the situation in the inner areas is different. It takes 17 weeks to remove chewing gum from Oxford Street but only 10 days for the streets to be covered with it again. Therefore, it seems that there is a simple lesson of organisation to be learnt.

As I said, chewing gum and butts are litter and they account for 40% of all litter. Talk of cleaning up litter follows on logically from the earlier Bill, and I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Marlesford, who has saved me the trouble of giving an enormous great speech or monologue on the subject. However, I just want to ask for a little guidance.

The Bill does not try to introduce any new legislation; it simply seeks to amend existing legislation to increase the littering fine for dropped cigarette butts from £75 to £100. However, what is the point of having those sorts of regulations if there is nowhere to put the butts or the gum? One immediately comes to the question of where the disposal units are. Your Lordships will know that this is a major tourist area and it is possible to work out where the children and others are. If you go to a bus stop, you will find lots of butts and lots of gum; if you go to a school you will find the same.

One day, I walked here from Sloane Square and counted up to 10,000 butts as I went, although I suddenly found that I was staggering as I tried to cross the road. The butts and gum stick on the concrete and do not go away, even if they are cleaned up. It erodes over time but leaves a bit of a mess. Therefore, the Bill very simply says that local authorities should be required to put bins in place. There are now special types of bin. This would require competitive tendering and so on, but cigarette butts and gum could be placed in them and they could be cleaned out. The cleaning systems are working quite well. The City of London has started on this and now finds that it has much cleaner streets. The question is what legislation can be put in place to make the provision of bins possible. I am told that the bins could, with relevant local authority approval, have advertising on them and thus be self-funding.

The idea of this Second Reading was that nobody would speak except for my noble friend Lord Erroll, so that we could jump very quickly to the Committee stage in the autumn. I had not intended that the Bill should be here today but the Government said, “We’ve got a bit of space. Could you jump in?”. I wish that sometimes they would say that I did not always have to jump in at the last minute. However, I am one of those last-minute Lords. The thought is very simple: we do away with a detailed debate at Second Reading and move straight to Committee as soon as possible in the autumn.

Here comes the wild card. I have had a lot of pressure put on me to deal with a third ingredient that causes everyone anxiety. I am not sure how to describe it, but it relates to four-legged animals who pollute the streets. I cannot use the normal term, which I discussed with the clerks. Noble Lords who are professors in health said that the solution is very simple: one should revert to the old Latin words. We are talking of canine excreta, which is causing quite a lot of problems around the area. There is a need for bins for that as well.

When fouling by dogs takes place, local authorities have the opportunity to fine people. I complained bitterly to one local authority that it did not have enough signs, and it suddenly decided to increase the penalty from, I think, £150 to £2,500. We have a small dog in our house in London who I look after quite well. Suddenly, secretly in the night, a sign was put on the house opposite that said: “Fouling, £2,500”. I do not know under what licence the local authority can impose that. This is an interesting issue and we want the Government simply to agree with the Bill. I am sure that I will get a favourable response and we can discuss it later at some point in the autumn.

We have been in touch with all the local authorities around the country. The plan was that they would all come to a joint meeting, maybe with up to 100 people, where we would ask Ministers and others to discuss the matter. You do not want to put pressure on local authorities that cannot afford to do something, but you find some way to do it. One of the ideas discussed is that those who put up the bins might get tax allowances. There are all sorts of formulas to work out how economically it can be done. I have said enough so I will sit down for the moment. I beg to move.

My Lords, I want to make a couple of points. This may be a very worthy cause but will it work? I would like to see greater flexibility in fines. I suspect that a £5 fine, a quick rap on the knuckles, might work to modify behaviour. However, in recent history, we have seen that £75 a time is infuriating people and getting them very cross with local authorities. This high level of fines is losing public sympathy because many people see this as a trivial offence.

People, particularly pensioners, are poor. We get idiotic behaviour from petty officials. A 71 year-old grandmother was given a £75 on-the-spot fine for dropping a thread on the pavement when she had not even realised that she had dropped it or, in fact, whether she had dropped it. Someone else was fined £75 after a tissue she was using to wipe her nose while running for a bus got blown away in a strong wind. Another problem is that these fines apply to any form of litter under the Environmental Protection Act. We have discovered that it also applies to bananas. In 2010, a woman was fined £50 when her baby dropped a piece of banana which rolled into a puddle. The council said that the fine was “standard procedure”.

As regards my next point, a woman was fined £75 after a bite-sized piece of sausage roll fell from her four year-old daughter’s mouth on to a street in Hull city centre. She appealed and the case was dismissed. She was lucky because a pigeon ate the sausage roll. In the end, it was not considered to be littering. However, there is a problem with appealing against these fines. Here is the trap—if you pay your fixed-penalty notice within 14 days, that is okay. No criminal proceedings can be brought. But if you do not, you could get a criminal conviction. I presume that if you appeal and the case ends up in court, and you lose, you could end up with a criminal conviction. That would show up in a CRB check. We know how some people, to cover their backside, were firing people from quite prestigious positions. For example, a schoolteacher failed to get a fishing rod licence and as a result had a criminal conviction. So we can see that, in covering themselves, various organisations are causing complications.

It will also mean that you can no longer take part in the US visa waiver scheme. So accidentally dropping a bit of litter and having someone trying to take £100 off you in the street could end up with you having lifelong problems.

Sometimes we do not look at the unintended consequences of some of these measures. They sound great up front but it is not always as simple as that. I think that a rap on the knuckles would be far more effective and I would impose £5 fines here and there. People would hate having to pay the fine, but it would be hardly worth making a fuss about and would modify behaviour.

My Lords, I, too, wish to take this opportunity to speak in the gap and to express my wholehearted support for my noble friend’s Bill and the intentions behind it.

Anyone who walks along Whitehall, as I do each day, and looks at the pavement will see that it is covered with butts and chewing gum. I remember how beautiful the paving stones were—they were laid in recent years at great expense—and how awful they look today as a result of the butts and the chewing gum.

I was astounded to hear from the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, that anyone has ever been fined for littering. From his examples, it is obvious that all the wrong people are being chased and fined and so implementation will be extremely important.

However, there are simple solutions. I know that in the past there have been difficulties with litter bins because they have been stolen, carried away, moved around or used as weapons. In the days when we were worried about terrorists and bombs, litter bins were obviously suspect. In Paris they use plastic bags—which would not have the same deleterious effect as large iron litter bins if explosions took place inside them—and they seem to work effectively.

My solution to the problem of public buildings, to which my noble friend referred, where sometimes you feel that you are walking through an ashtray if you go outside, is that anyone who exercises a non-smoking policy in a building should issue portable ashtrays. It would not be difficult for someone to carry a small tin and put their cigarette ends in that container. There could be a public campaign to the effect that anyone who smokes should be required to carry a portable ashtray with him or her.

My noble friend said this is a simple Bill. I hope the Government will accept it and that it will lead to a simple solution.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, for introducing this Bill today. He is seeking to address a long-standing, expensive and unpleasant problem. I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, for their comments.

I have a confession to make. I do not smoke but I have been known occasionally to chew gum. However, I promise that I dispose of it responsibly at all times.

Over the years, in your Lordships’ House and in the other place, a number of questions and debates have been raised on this issue and we have seen legislation to deal with the problem of litter. However, still there are people who persist in irresponsibly disposing of their litter in unhygienic and unpleasant ways. All litter is bad, a point made by the noble Earl, and the cost to local authorities is enormous, as the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, said. I would like to see local councils publishing in their annual accounts how much it costs per resident for them to clean up other people’s mess. I call them litter louts, although some of them do not like that description.

As the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, has said, the Bill seeks to address the two specific areas that have been targeted—chewing gum and cigarette butts. I had not realised that there is a significant industry devoted to chewing gum removal and disposal. Just a quick trawl on the internet identifies several companies selling products to businesses, councils and individuals, all to deal with chewing gum. There are disposable wrappers that can be carried in pockets or handbags; there are solutions to try to remove chewing gum from clothes, which is extremely unpleasant; there are also industrial-strength machines, to which the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, referred, that remove flattened and dirty chewing gum from pavements.

I first saw one of those machines in operation when I was Environment Minister in Northern Ireland. It was a huge expense and effort for the local authority, but it was an absolute necessity because the sight of the very dark pavements in the town centre against the dirty, off-white used chewing gum was pretty disgusting. I also recall my husband joining me on a visit to a school at which I was speaking as part of the Lord Speaker’s outreach programme, and the school was very embarrassed when he left with his trousers covered in chewing gum from a school chair. I can tell the school that I put the trousers in the freezer and managed to get it off later.

Clearly, this is a problem. It is an unpleasant and ugly problem and innovative ways are being sought to address it, and have been for many years. As early as 1959, Lonnie Donegan reached number three in the pop charts with a solution to the problem of chewing gum disposal, with the hit song, “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour (On the Bedpost Overnight?)”. Noble Lords may not be aware that the problem goes back even further, to 1924, when the original version, “Does the Spearmint Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?” was a hit in the USA. I suspect that that chewing gum from 1924 has lost its flavour.

When the Labour Government set up the Chewing Gum Action Group in 2003, they brought together charities, government and the chewing gum industry to change public behaviour and alert people to the penalties that can be imposed. I am grateful that this Government continue to support that body. The chewing gum industry is committed to playing its part in the group and provides financial support to help tackle the problem. When it is active, it can achieve great results. In one area there was a 93% reduction in the problem. But I was disappointed to note from the group’s website that this year only 14 local authorities have signed up to it. Clearly many more would benefit from doing so.

Last year in your Lordships’ House, the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, asked the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, for an update on dissolvable chewing gum—which apparently has been invented—because,

“chewing gum is the most horrendous litter problem on our streets”.

The Minister replied that he was meeting Wrigley that very afternoon, and that he hoped that his noble friend was,

“reassured that this matter is under control and I will stick to the solution”.—[Official Report, 9/7/12; col. 903.]

It would be interesting to know what further progress has been made since then. I understand that one UK company has invented a chewing gum that can be removed from pavements just with water but I am not aware that it is in widespread use with all the companies. My one reservation about dissolvable chewing gum is that it might make some people even more reckless in disposing of it if they think it can be removed so easily.

Of course, the other problem that the Bill seeks to address is that of cigarette butts. I commend efforts to tackle this problem but there is a debate to be had as to whether the imposition of fines and such duties as suggested by the Bill is the best way forward, as the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, indicated. I will use an example from my own local authority, Basildon District Council. The council hired a security company, Xfor, to police the town centre and issue fines of £75—the current maximum—to those it witnessed dropping cigarette butts. Xfor charged the council £45 for every fine it issued. There was no request to pick it up, no warning, just the fine of £75. I think the idea was that immediate harsh action would be an effective deterrent. In the first three months of the scheme, 1,460 fines were issued but 495 were not paid, leaving the council £17,000 out of pocket. Obviously, the private security company could not verify names and addresses; nor could it check that the names and addresses it was given were those of the people to whom the fines had been issued. At the time the company was quoted as saying that it was trying to make it cost-neutral for council tax payers but it seemed that the more fines it issued, the greater the loss and expense to the council. My understanding is that as a result the contract had to be terminated; it just was not working. The point made by the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, reinforces the example I have here.

Last week a teacher in Northern Ireland was fined for throwing an apple core from his car window into a hedge because he thought it was biodegradable and would not cause the same kind of problem as throwing a cigarette packet or chewing gum out of the window.

Just because it is biodegradable does not mean that it is not litter, unfortunately. I think the noble Baroness will find that under the Act it is waste the moment that it is not being used for the purpose for which it was intended. It is therefore litter even if an animal eats it.

My Lords, the noble Earl is correct about the legislation. The point I was making is about misunderstanding: people not believing that they are committing an offence. A very responsible citizen, a local teacher, now has a fine and a criminal record.

Litter disposal points are very welcome, but we have all read, and we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, about local authorities who have got rid of many regular litter bins, in some cases citing security and in others because they cannot afford the staff to empty the bins. All across London, there are cigarette disposal units on the side of buildings—often pubs, sometimes offices, anywhere where people congregate to smoke. They are sponsored by a London-based company, but so many of them are either overflowing or damaged and the area underneath and around them is littered with stubs. That itself is a problem in disposal.

I am very fire safety aware. Many of your Lordships will have received a letter from me about your fire safety training, which I hope that every Member of your Lordships' House has undertaken. I found through trawling the internet that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, said, it is possible to buy a small, almost disposable ashtray. It is a fully closeable box so that smokers can safely keep their stubs until they can get home and properly dispose of them.

The objectives behind the Bill are wise and seek to address a problem that costs us all. However, I think that more debate is needed on the effectiveness of the measures we have in place and what measures could be effective in future. It is helpful that the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, is engaging with local authorities. Clearly, further debate will be helpful to find a way forward to tackle what is a nasty, unpleasant problem.

My Lords, I start by thanking my noble friend for introducing the Bill and giving us a further opportunity to debate the important issue of litter. I also thank all noble Lords who have given up their Friday to speak when they would much prefer to have been out in the sun—perhaps, like my noble friend, counting gum spots on the pavement or, even better, picking up litter.

As I have emphasised in several recent debates, litter is a blight on our streets and on our landscape. More than that, it is an entirely avoidable problem. It is never necessary to drop litter, and most people are aware that it is a criminal offence to do so, but that knowledge does not seem to stop them. My noble friend gave us some statistics; here are some more. Research by Keep Britain Tidy suggests that almost two-thirds of people in Britain drop litter, but less than a third admit to it.

Despite that rather worrying statistic, there is also a great depth of public feeling about litter and the need for firmer action to tackle it. More than 10,000 people joined Keep Britain Tidy during Love Where You Live month in June this year to take part in clean-ups in their local areas. My department receives a fairly constant stream of correspondence on the subject, suggesting any number of actions that the Government should take, including those proposed by my noble friend in his Bill: to increase fines or provide more bins.

As I have said several times recently, solutions to this pernicious problem are rarely straightforward. My noble friend’s first proposal is that the minimum fine for littering should be increased. At present, local authorities may set fines for littering and similar environmental offences of anywhere between £50 and £80, with a default of £75 if they do not set a local amount. My noble friend proposes that the minimum fine should rise to £100 without a statutory maximum.

I fully understand my noble friend’s desire to send a message to the public about the seriousness of littering as an offence. Not only does the problem add to everyone's council tax bill in cleansing and enforcement costs but, the very presence of dropped litter can lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour. This in turn increases people's fear of crime and discourages them from going out to use our wonderful and varied public places.

Litter also has environmental impacts: on wild animals and birds which eat it, and on pollution levels in our water courses. However, research by Keep Britain Tidy conducted in 2011 showed that public opinion is divided over whether fixed penalties are an effective way to change people’s behaviour and that in areas where more fixed-penalty notices are issued, the public satisfaction with levels of cleanliness is often still low. An increase in the fine for littering is of course only as effective as the enforcement action which leads to the fine being issued. As we discussed earlier when debating my noble friend Lord Marlesford’s Bill on littering from vehicles, enforcement officers cannot be everywhere at once. The more often that people drop their litter without facing any consequences, the less effective a deterrent—the seemingly remote possibility of a fine—becomes, however high it may be.

Enforcement is also expensive. While higher fines might help to pay for more enforcement officers, the fine will be paid only if the offender can afford it. If he cannot, the case is likely to go to court and will result in even greater costs to all concerned, without ever improving the offender’s ability to pay or the likelihood of those costs being recovered.

The absence of a maximum fine may also leave the system open to potential abuse. The noble Earl, Lord Erroll, shared some of those concerns. We already hear stories in the popular press of individuals who are justifiably indignant about having been fined by overzealous enforcement officers for so-called littering when they have accidentally dropped a £10 note, or for feeding the ducks in the park. The public are already suspicious that some local authorities use these enforcement powers to raise additional revenue. I would hope that it is obvious to your Lordships that we do not expect local authorities to use fixed-penalty notices for trivial incidents in this way at all, but I can only imagine how more aggrieved and suspicious those individuals would feel if faced with a fine of more than £100. Some of the local authorities that my officials have spoken to, informally, have expressed concern that this proposal could put enforcement officers at increased risk of challenge or even violence.

What is more, the increase that my noble friend proposes would, I suggest, be disproportionate in comparison with other offences. For example, fines for criminal damage, for making nuisance calls or for possession of class B drugs are all set at £80 and are payable in 28 days, while this Bill proposes fines of at least £100 which are payable in 14 days. With no statutory maximum the perverse situation could even arise where the on-the-spot fine exceeded the maximum penalty which could be imposed if the case went to court. I assure my noble friend that if there is evidence of the current fines being too low to enable successful enforcement I am open to requests from local authorities to review the regulations which set the minimum and maximum limits. However, I have significant reservations about the blanket approach proposed in the Bill.

However, it is the second part of my noble friend’s Bill which gives me most concern. The Bill would require local authorities to “provide appropriate disposal” points,

“for chewing gum and cigarette litter”,

within four metres of the entrance to any building,

“for which the local authority is responsible”,

and at least one disposal point per 100 square metres throughout the area for which the local authority is the responsible litter authority.

The Explanatory Notes to the Bill which my noble friend has helpfully provided suggest that, by making provision for local authorities to finance the provision of these disposal units through advertising, this proposal could be implemented at zero cost to local authorities. This type of litter is indeed a persistent problem, as my noble friend suggested. In the most recent Local Environmental Quality Survey of England, smoking-related litter was found to be the most prevalent form of litter and present on 82% of sites surveyed. Staining from discarded chewing gum was found on 68% of sites, down a small percentage from the previous year, and is known to be one of the most difficult and costly local environmental quality problems to tackle.

However, your Lordships will appreciate that what is proposed in the Bill adds up to a truly staggering number of bins. While potentially appropriate in some busy urban areas, the number of bins required by the Bill is likely to be vastly disproportionate to actual demand in rural areas, on council-owned open spaces or on land with very limited public access. For example, placing one bin every 100 square metres would mean that more than 70 would be required on a council-owned village green the size of a regulation football pitch. This, presumably, does not include the bins that my noble friend mentioned in his speech for what he calls “dog excreta”. Even if supported by income from advertising, the costs of installing such a vast number of bins and their ongoing maintenance and emptying would, I am afraid, be prohibitive to local authorities.

Moreover, even if they were well maintained, the provision of more disposal points might not even resolve the underlying problem because research shows that those who discard their chewed gum or their cigarette stubs often do not perceive them to be litter, so people may not think to look for or use these bins even if they were available. At present, local authorities have the power and, most importantly, the discretion to make their own decisions about how many and what types of bins should be provided throughout their areas to address the specific issues that occur. This is consistent with our commitments on localism, and surely has to be the right answer. Of course, my reservations about my noble friend’s Bill do not mean that I do not share his concerns about this blight on our landscape. However, as I have said several times in recent debates, we do not believe that further regulation is necessarily the right approach to this issue.

Your Lordships may be aware that my department has for some years chaired the Chewing Gum Action Group, which is made up of chewing gum manufacturers and is supported by Keep Britain Tidy and its equivalent organisations in the devolved Administrations. We are of course grateful for the support that chewing gum manufacturers have shown over several years for campaigns aimed at reducing the amount of chewed gum that is dropped on our streets and elsewhere. These have certainly produced a benefit in reduced chewing gum litter, at least for the period of the campaign, in some cases achieving reductions of up to 90% in gum drops in the campaign area. However, in many cases it seems that chewing gum litter levels rise again once the effect of the campaigns has worn off.

Chewing gum remains much harder to remove than other forms of litter, as several noble Lords have mentioned, given the way in which it bonds to pavement surfaces. As a consequence, local authorities still spend tens of millions of pounds a year in laboriously clearing it up, and this cost is much higher per tonne of chewing gum litter than for other kinds of litter. More work is clearly needed, and research shows that the public agree. Recent work by Keep Britain Tidy found that 82% of the British public think that businesses should do more to prevent litter. Work that KBT has done has shown that when a business’s product and brand is seen in the gutter as litter, that can have a real, negative impact on that business’s bottom line, and many businesses are starting to recognise this.

One obvious solution, on which I would like to see much more emphasis, and this was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, is the bringing to market of non-stick chewing gums that do not bond to the surface on which they are dropped—although, to address directly one of the points raised by the noble Baroness, I am not sure whether it would still stick to the bedpost. I understand that there are several kinds of non-stick chewing gum that have already been shown to be technically feasible and which could therefore be quickly made available. They could have a taste and texture almost identical to current brands. If these could rapidly replace existing formulations then no one would lose out, and local council tax payers would save the tens of millions of pounds a year that are currently diverted towards tackling this avoidable problem.

Of course education must continue to discourage the extremely anti-social habit of dropping chewing gum, but I believe that manufacturers and retailers could and should play a bigger part in helping here, without the need for government regulation to bring that about. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, asked specifically what happened following the debate last year; my noble friend Lord Taylor mentioned a meeting. Manufacturers assure us that they have spent a significant amount of resources on developing a biodegradable or non-stick gum. Part of the problem in developing it, I understand, is that the same ingredients that make it gum also make it sticky. The product has to meet safety standards and be pleasant to consume, and these requirements have not to date been met by a cleaner gum. Ultimately, the choice of material is a commercial decision but we would welcome design solutions to the problem of chewing gum litter. However, behaviour change, as the noble Baroness said, is also important in the battle against litter.

I have a great deal of sympathy for my noble friend’s depth of feeling on this subject. I agree with him that local authorities should be encouraged to make it as easy as possible for people to do the right thing and to dispose of their litter responsibly. Unfortunately, though, as I have explained, I must express reservations about his Bill.

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister because he has fallen into the trap of assuming that I have not done more research than his department. He gave a classic ministerial response which was well delivered and charming. It is, of course, wrong, but that does not matter. He referred to another Bill about unsolicited phone calls. I am sure he has read my Bill on that subject, which will be coming before the House very shortly.

I take fully the points made by the noble Earl. The objective of the Bill is to raise the issue. We will do that through the Chewing Gum Action Group and all the local authorities. It costs them £415 million a year to clean up the streets at the moment. Having worked in that sort of economic world, one would not even suggest things unless it was economic so to do. It is not just the nuisance value. There is an education programme that the Minister could perhaps advance. It is in front of public buildings—government and others—that the biggest amount of dropping takes place. That requires only a schoolteacher to say, “Put it in a bin” or for schools to have bins there, because that is where it takes place, or outside concert halls. It is not a difficult problem.

I am very grateful for the support I have here and outside. The idea is that we move this on to the Committee stage when various issues can be debated. I will arrange for everyone who is interested to be able to attend the meeting. I have the latest brief from Wrigley on the progress it is making. It was delivered this morning. When I was an economist in an advertising agency, Wrigley was one of our clients.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

House adjourned at 1.47 pm.