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Lords Chamber

Volume 747: debated on Friday 19 July 2013

House of Lords

Friday, 19 July 2013.

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Norwich.

Littering from Vehicles Bill [HL]

Second Reading

Moved by

My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I would like to say how grateful I am for the widespread interest, help and support that I have received, especially from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, of which I was once chairman. I should declare an interest as president of the Suffolk Preservation Society, and perhaps also as chairman of Marlesford Parish Council, whose seven members have for many years been picking up litter in our village, especially from the A12, which unfortunately still passes through the centre of our community. However, we hope that Marlesford will be bypassed when the third nuclear power station is constructed at Sizewell.

We English, to our shame, are an appallingly messy nation, which is why this Bill is needed. Let me first outline its purpose. It is to support local authorities in tackling the serious problem of littering from vehicles. The Bill proposes a simple and modest change to the law to achieve this. It would make three substantive changes to the law. In brief, it would introduce a civil penalty for littering from vehicles, make the registered keeper of a vehicle from which the litter has been thrown the automatic recipient of the penalty, and require local authorities to publish details of the contracts they give relating to litter clearance. The Bill is designed to deliver behaviour change. It is primarily a deterrent and we would not expect lots of penalty notices to be issued.

The Minister, my noble friend Lord De Mauley, himself recognised the problem of roadside rubbish, as he put it, at the conference of the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management in June this year. It is estimated that seven out of the 10 pieces of litter blighting the countryside are dropped from cars. In 2011, some 9 million drivers threw litter from their cars. The cost of clearing up roadside litter contributes to a bill for local councils that in 2010-11 reached £863 million, not to mention additional spending to clear up litter along motorways and trunk roads. The Bill has the support of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, and since the last election more than 1,000 members have written to their MP to request action in this area. A 2012 poll showed that 75% of the members of the AA believe that roadside litter is a serious problem. The Local Government Association supports the provisions of the Bill that relate to the creation of a new civil penalty for roadside littering.

I shall now explain the Bill. Clause 1 provides that a littering contravention has taken place if a person throws litter from a vehicle, and it allows a civil enforcement officer to impose a civil penalty if this contravention takes place. It also makes the registered keeper of a vehicle the recipient of the penalty, whether or not they gave instructions or allowed the contravention to take place. It provides for passengers in certain types of vehicles to be exempted from the penalty. Finally, it provides for other matters relating to the penalty to be set out in regulations.

Clause 2 defines who the registered keeper of a vehicle is for the purposes of the Bill. Clause 3 sets out who a civil enforcement officer is for the purposes of the Bill. Clause 4 defines a vehicle for the purposes of the Bill. Clause 5 requires responsible authorities to publish yearly the names of any organisations which it has contracted to collect litter on its behalf, the amount paid to the organisation for this service, the geographical areas covered by the contract and performance monitoring data relating to the contract, including the authority’s own assessment. Clause 6 defines a responsible authority for the purpose of Clause 5. Clause 7 sets out the commencement, Short Title and extent of the Bill, which would commence on the day that it is passed and extends to England only.

The existing law, the Environmental Protection Act 1990, contains a criminal offence which allows people who throw litter from cars to be fined for doing so. The problem is that, in practice, councils have found it very difficult to use this power as it is often impossible to prove who within the vehicle was responsible for throwing the litter. In 2011, during the passage of the Localism Act, I proposed an amendment to address this problem by allowing councils to issue fines to the registered owners of the vehicle, who would then be responsible for paying the amount unless another person were nominated by the driver to pay the fine. The amendment was warmly received, including by the opposition Front Bench, the noble Lords, Lord Beecham, Lord Cameron of Dillington and Lord Judd, two former Environment Secretaries—my noble friends Lord Jenkin of Roding and Lord Deben—and by the late Lord Reay. I pay especial tribute to our late colleague Lord Reay. He was a close friend and a much loved and respected Member of this House. Hugh was a real countryman and a knowledgeable and balanced environmentalist.

In response to my amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, for the Government, said that it,

“raises issues of fairness and proportionality”.

He referred to the London Local Authorities Bill, which is now an Act, which he said would allow local authorities,

“to issue a civil penalty to registered keepers where enforcement officers witness littering from a vehicle. It makes sense to learn the lessons from the application of that approach in London before moving to wider legislation”.— [Official Report, 10/10/11; col. 1370.]

Two years on, that prevarication will no longer wash. The civil penalty has now been in place in London for more than a year, since 18 June 2012.

I have listened to the Government’s concerns. The Littering from Vehicles Bill which I bring forward today takes into account the Government’s comments on my amendment during the passage of the Localism Act. It creates a new civil penalty for littering in England, which has now been in place in London for over a year, and which the Government seem to favour as much more proportionate. Crucially, it makes the registered keeper of the vehicle the automatic recipient of the penalty.

The Environmental Protection Act presents all littering offences, including littering from vehicles, as criminal offences and therefore fixed-penalty notices can be issued. In London, littering from vehicles is now a civil offence, and therefore a penalty charge notice can be issued. For the Government, the issue of proportionality between civil and criminal offence will surely need to be debated. From the analysis that I have seen from London Councils, it seems that some councils have different preferences from others. I myself declare a strong preference for using civil penalties rather than the criminal law whenever possible, especially when trying to moderate behaviour to benefit local communities.

For the recipient of a fine, the distinction is often unclear and/or meaningless; they are simply paying a financial penalty for doing something wrong. It is likely that this effective enforcement of a law, whether civil or criminal, will result in positive behaviour change, both in the recipient of the fine and in their peer group. What I emphasise is the legal change which makes the owner of the vehicle responsible for any litter from it, with reasonable exemptions applying to, for example, littering by passengers in a taxi. Local authorities should be able to issue fines against those who litter. That is the purpose of the law. At the moment, under the EPA, this is not possible as the burden of proof is too great.

More than 100 local councils, supported by organisations such as the CPRE and the Local Government Association, have campaigned for many years for the existing law to be made workable. Successive Governments have prevaricated and resisted this most logical and most necessary change. If local councils can effectively enforce the law, they can change the behaviour of litterers. If people refrain from littering, the significant economic cost of clearing up roadside litter can be reduced. If the public know who is responsible for litter clearing of particular roads, that will put pressure on contractors to do their jobs properly, which they do not always do at the moment. The Highways Agency estimates in its latest annual report that it spends £10 million annually to clear litter from our major roads. The latest annual street cleansing bill for England was £863 per year. Again, having to spend these huge and unsustainable amounts for which there is no real return, because it is unnecessary to litter in the first place, is neither satisfactory nor acceptable, especially as the roads are still not clean. Indeed, 75% of the members of the AA, who are surely most affected by the continuous rise in roadside litter levels, believe that it is a serious problem, and 94% believe that it gives a bad impression of Britain and spoils local communities.

Despite delivering on its commitment to host a roadside litter summit in 2012, Defra’s approach has not dealt with this issue in any meaningful way over the past six years at least. How can a department be content that a law designed to forward its objectives is unworkable? Why has it not responded to the clear call from local councils and their representatives to make this small change? How can a Government hope to be recognised as competent, let alone tinged with green, if they cannot, after three years in power, even tackle something as simple as our shamefully dirty roads?

Defra’s disappointing approach is exemplified by the consultation it carried out with local authorities on the changes proposed by the Bill. I have seen a copy of this consultation, which was sent by a central government official on 4 June asking for a response to questions just two days later on 6 June. I hope that, when the Minister replies, he does not suggest that this was in any way a meaningful consultation. Why was an artificial deadline set for more than a month before this debate was scheduled to take place? Perhaps the Minister can tell us how many authorities responded in the two-day window. It is a perversion of the Government’s much-trumpeted localism.

I have certain questions for the Minister. Has the experience in London thrown up any major problems that suggest that extending the powers to all English authorities would be unworkable? Does the Minister agree that, whether we have a criminal or civil offence, we must ensure that those who drop litter from vehicles can be effectively held to account? Does he share my desire to make the existing laws on littering usable for councils? How long will the Minister wait before making a decision on whether to roll out the London approach across the whole of England?

Many noble Lords on all sides of the House have expressed to me their strong support and their regret at not being able to be here to speak today. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, asked me to mention in particular the fire danger from cigarettes thrown from vehicles. I hope that the Minister will resist pressure to parrot the prevarications with which his officials will have sought to sustain him. What I believe will be unacceptable to the House and to the public, who really mind about litter on our roads, is any further delay. I hope that the Minister will offer political support for this modest but important measure to be enacted. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am very glad that the luck of the draw has enabled me to speak after my noble friend Lord Marlesford. I think I speak for most noble Lords in this House in congratulating him on bringing forward this measure. It is a modest measure, but one that will undoubtedly improve the quality of life in this country. Far from costing any public money, it would save it. Above all, it would improve, quite simply and straightforwardly, the quality of life in this country. I also congratulate him on his persistence. For at least a decade, if not longer, and under Governments of both parties, he has been banging away at this issue. That is the only way in which you can ever get anything done. I think we all congratulate him most warmly on that.

There is no need for me to speak at any great length because the noble Lord has said everything that needs to be said. The resistance that has been put up over the years is quite extraordinary. There has never been any objection in principle or because of the costs—there could not be, as this would save public money—to the measures that my noble friend Lord Marlesford has put forward on a number of occasions and has now brought forward in this excellent Bill. All that happens is procrastination, which is unacceptable and intolerable.

When the Minister responds to this, I am sure that he will have been briefed by officials to resist it; that is what always happens. I know my noble friend to be a man of discernment, judgment, common sense and independence of mind, so I very much hope that he will tear up his brief—although not, of course, to announce that he will accept the Bill. That would be going too far; we know that the officials take great pride in their authorship. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Marlesford will be perfectly content if, as I hope, the Minister will say, “Of course, we cannot accept Lord Marlesford’s Bill, but we will bring forward, without delay, a government Bill to enact precisely what he is proposing”. I hope that he will do that and, incidentally, that he will also speak personally to the Secretary of State for the Environment—I charge him with this, and I shall check up on it—show him the report of this debate in our House this morning and make sure that my right honourable friend is fully aware of the views of all noble Lords in this House who will speak in this debate.

That, therefore, is what my noble friend has to do: tear up his officials’ brief and speak to our right honourable friend Owen Paterson—I am glad that he has got the message. The time of procrastination must stop; the time for action is now.

My Lords, I join noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. He is a very civilised man and he does not come to this subject out of the blue. He comes to it from a background of deep commitment to the countryside and qualitative concerns about our environment; he was a very distinguished president of CPRE.

Before I get to the main part of my speech I have one specific point on which I hope the Minister may be able to help us. I understand that sometimes there are a few issues about new estates and merging them into local authority responsibility. Sometimes practical issues such as who has responsibility for clean streets and litter can fall between two stools. It would be very interesting to know whether the Government have this problem in focus and what their proposals are for making sure that it is right.

This issue is important because it is both a rural and an urban issue. The thoughtlessness, selfishness and inconsiderate behaviour of a very few people in the countryside can have an immense impact. I think of the dedicated work done by the short-staffed and excellent personnel and volunteers from organisations such as the National Trust and other organisations that care for the countryside. Just a few motorists or cyclists who throw away a bit of litter can spoil the effect of a great deal of care and concern. This last spring, when it eventually came, there was a glorious flourishing of wildflowers and the rest, but in the lanes near where I live it was just sad to see the disfiguration caused by just a very few thoughtless people.

In our concern about this we must not overlook the very considerable number of highly responsible people who take this issue seriously. The other night a midnight walk, exclusively for ladies, took place in Whitehaven to raise money for the West Cumbria Hospice at Home. It was quite a long six-mile walk that started at midnight. The walkers were all issued with water bottles and the rest. I was very impressed to see the concern with which those people, who must have been tired on that warm evening, having done that walk, made sure that their bottles were going into litter bins. We must encourage responsible citizenship because there is a great deal in it.

In our urban areas, of course we take tourism extremely seriously for the well-being of our economy. How on earth do we encourage tourism if our streets look a mess? Incidentally, that does not encourage the best behaviour by tourists themselves. Again, it can be caused by the thoughtlessness of a very few people, but it certainly spoils the whole effect. We all know of countries we have visited where one of the striking things—it strikes us because it is so different—is that there is civic pride and an absence of litter. We have to look at that and think, “Surely we can do better”.

This brings me to the issue of what lies behind the problem. A lot lies behind it. First, it can be argued that it is symptomatic of a society that has for too long been led down the road of egocentric materialism—“It’s me that matters”. There is no sense of social belonging or social involvement, and so on. Therefore we have to look at our education system and our value system, and at the examples we set in Parliament and elsewhere, and ask whether we are encouraging a culture of mutual social responsibility, care and concern. That is central, because we will not get this right just by legislating to control it—although I commend the noble Lord on his courage and persistence in insisting that we face up to the issue in legislative terms. It must happen in a context that is different from the prevailing one. We have to take that seriously.

There are other hard-headed arguments that matter. There is a great deal of strong evidence from excellent organisations such as Living Streets, which I have come across only recently. I was struck by the research and other work that it is doing, and by its commitment. Such organisations are producing a great deal of evidence about why the issue matters. First, they emphasise that the transformation of our streets into welcoming spaces helps build communities and improves the happiness and well-being of everyone. They argue that strong communities are built around active and busy streets. Living Streets’ experience has shown that making streets attractive and safe encourages more people to use them actively. Evidence suggests that when our streets are transformed into welcoming public spaces, local communities thrive, neighbourhoods become safer and we all become fitter and healthier.

Public perceptions on this issue are interesting. A YouGov poll in March 2012 asked people what problems they saw in their locality and found that 66% reported litter or dog fouling. The figure was more pronounced in Wales; it was 76%. In Scotland it was 75% and in the north, where I live, it was 69%. In addition, the survey revealed that people would walk more if their streets were in a better state. Some 39% of British adults said that they would walk more in their local area if the streets were kept in better condition. Some 46% of 18 to 24 year-olds and 51% of 25 to 34 year- olds would walk more if the streets were safer and more attractive. Keep Britain Tidy found that 62% of people in England were concerned about the appearance of their area, and 57% considered litter to be a problem.

There are other hard-headed arguments. The absence of attractive streets can have a negative impact on issues such as health and well-being. It is interesting to note that people who walk linger longer and spend more. Making town centres better for walking can boost trading by up to 40%. Good street management and maintenance could also alleviate the significant economic and societal costs related to poor health such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, obesity and mental ill health. The costs of these to the British economy are significant: £29 billion for care costs and lost productivity associated with cardiovascular disease; £5 billion for obesity; and £106 billion in 2009-10 for care costs, lost productivity and reductions in quality of life resulting from mental health problems.

Tackling this issue effectively will have a great number of social benefits and positive knock-on effects. We have to look at the issue in a wider social context. We have to look at why it happens. I come back to my opening point. Like many other issues, this will not be something that we can get right until we have a prevailing culture in this country that is about caring for other people, caring for the community and the environment in which we live, and taking this seriously. That puts a heavy responsibility on education. It is not just about me succeeding at school but about how I can grow as a person to become a fuller citizen: not just a participant in a market economy but a citizen who cares about, participates in and wants to shape a decent society. Education is central to this. So, also, is the value system—and of course, the value system very much starts with the community at Westminster and with our responsibilities.

My Lords, as always I am glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I do not come armed with a battery of convincing statistics—and convincing they were—but I am sure that we were all grateful to him for them. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Marlesford for the admirable, moderate and modest way in which he introduced a very important measure. My only criticism of his Bill is that it is perhaps too moderate. However, it can be amended in Committee.

I endorse everything that my noble friend Lord Lawson said to the Minister. I hope that any negative brief has already been destroyed and that his reply will indicate an understanding of the problem and a determination both to get on with it and not to produce meaningless consultation exercises that give two days for people to reply. That sort of thing reinforces the scepticism of those of us who regard the Localism Act as a tokenism Act.

This is a serious problem. My noble friend Lord Marlesford was right to say that it is a question of behavioural attitudes. We need to moderate behaviour. We discussed this in a couple of debates in this House in recent weeks. I had the privilege of introducing one on citizenship three weeks ago. The debate the following week was introduced by my noble friend Lady Shephard. We talked about the need for young people to grow into citizens who have a sense of community and of their responsibilities as well as their rights. I advocated a citizenship scheme and a ceremony, and had great support from all parts of the House. My noble friend Lady Shephard, and those of us who supported her, talked about the need for educating school leavers into feeling that they were going out into a world in which they would be able to play a constructive part. Attitudes and behaviour are crucial.

When I was a young schoolboy at a choir school in Grimsby in 1947, I was summoned to the headmaster’s study. “Cormack, you were looking in the toy shop window in the Bull Ring yesterday”. “Yes, sir”. “While you were there, a funeral passed you. You did not turn round, take off your cap and stand in silent respect”. “No, sir”. “If I ever see you doing that again, you know what will happen”. “Yes, sir”. That is perhaps an extreme example, but we were brought up with an attitude of real respect for those with whom we lived and for the society in which we lived. Not one of us would have thought of dropping anything on the ground without picking it up.

When I was a Member of Parliament for South Staffordshire, which I had the honour to represent for 40 years, litter became a terrible problem, particularly in the latter two decades. I lived in a particularly glorious part of the country. The surrounding lanes were frequently fouled by litter: not just lemonade bottles and cigarette packets but suites of furniture and white goods such as refrigerators dumped in lay-bys. The cost to the local council was enormous, but what was so terrible was that some beautiful and absolutely lovely countryside was despoiled and fouled, sometimes for weeks on end. Any society that can tolerate that does not deserve the epithet civilised.

I have the privilege of living in the Minster Yard, in the Cathedral Close, in the great city of Lincoln. Only last week, coming back from a service with a friend who was staying with us, we found on one of the greens—and Lincoln works very hard to keep itself tidy—that people had been picnicking, and there were bottles and cartons which we picked up and put in my dustbin. Any society that can have that attitude towards its surroundings does not, as I say, deserve to call itself civilised.

This modest measure is about changing attitudes, but it will work only if there is an enforcement of the sort of measures that my noble friend is advocating and a determination in our schools to teach our children that there are certain things that you just do not do—and one of them is spoiling the environment in which we live for your neighbours, your friends and your family and, in a sense, above all, for those visitors, if you live in a part of the world that attracts tourists, who come to enjoy it. So let us hope that, when my noble friend comes to reply from the Front Bench, he will indicate that the Government regard this matter as a high priority. He is nodding furiously, so we are all waiting for his speech.

If he is shaking his head, by Jove we are going to be plunged into gloom at the end of this debate. I hope that he will show that the Government accept that this is a real problem which my noble friend has underlined and, above all, ensure that it is tackled rather more quickly than the appalling problem of Parliament Square. We saw the centre of the greatest city in the world despoiled and defaced by litter, year after year. Now, thank God, it has gone—and let us hope that when Marlesford, or Marlesford in the government version, passes into law, we shall be on the way to seeing lanes, byways and the streets of our country and county towns as clean as Parliament Square is today. I am delighted to support my noble friend’s Bill.

My Lords, extravagant praise has been given to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, for introducing this Bill, and I join in that. I put my name down for the debate, knowing full well that the details of his very precisely architected Bill would be dealt with more ably by others. My interest in the subject leads on to wider matters, which I hope the noble Lord will agree are suitable for a Second Reading debate.

Why is it that people nowadays behave in the way they do, having won the freedoms as individuals that they have? Why does the balance between individual freedom and the common good seem to have got out of kilter? Yesterday I drifted into the Chamber, as one sometimes does when there is a debate, thinking that there might be something helpful in the debate on civil society. I had nearly dropped off to sleep when suddenly, to my surprise, I heard the most astonishing speech by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby. I recommend that all those noble Lords in this debate who are interested in why people behave in the way that they do, and something of the culture and history behind that, should read his excellent speech. It is quite short. Surprise, surprise, he mentioned TS Eliot—and I thought, “Things are really improving here in the House. We are moving to different levels of intellectual gravitas”. I did not know that TS Eliot was so concerned with,

“the building blocks of a civil society”.

The right reverend Prelate added:

“The more we are concerned about individual good, the bigger the problem with the common good. The more people have individual freedom, the more chance there is of becoming isolated, lonely and marginalised”.—[Official Report, 18/7/13; col. 931.]

I think that the right reverend Prelate is absolutely right. How many of us have walked down the street—those of us of a certain age, and I think that I am roughly of the same generation as the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford —and really been astonished, on a fine day in a street with fine buildings, to see young people walking with an electronic apparatus screwed firmly into their ear, with a glazed look in their eye, completely disassociated from what surrounds them? This is something that is quite alien to me, with the way I was brought up, because, of course, we did not have all those electronic gadgets. Nowadays, when one walks along the street and one sees what I have described, one has to avoid people engaged in sending text messages on the pavement, zigzagging in and out without looking where they are going. So there is a problem with our society, because these people are much worse mannered than they were when I was growing up.

As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has said, we were encouraged to be aware of litter. In fact, there was advertising about litter bugs and people of that kind, and people were aware of it. Local government should be involved in engaging people more with their local society, but how can it, with the constraints placed on it, take up the social responsibilities of getting more engaged in people’s lives so that they are less likely to be ill? Depression nowadays among the young is a very big problem; I have had it in my own family, with one son. With his friends and colleagues at school—I do not know what brought it on—he became enormously lacking in confidence. He is quite a talented boy, actually, but he began to lack confidence and become, frankly, neurotic and depressed. So I have become very interested in this subject.

In yesterday’s debate, another noble Lord introduced the concept of the three legs of the stool, which used to govern our behaviour in our society—the nation, the family, and the church. We may have rebelled against some or all of what was contained in those three legs of the stool, but we knew where we were. There were always rebels and miscreants in society but, generally speaking, people worked according to what was expected of them in that way.

I think that I know what the Minister who is answering the debate will say, despite the encouragement of his neighbour. I realise how difficult it is for government to legislate for individual behaviour. In his usual elegant and polite way, I am sure that he will find a very good way round that with his brief and, perhaps, one or two comments of his own.

We all travel now during the holidays, I think, although I do not travel far; I usually go to France. I confess that I am rather a Francophile. It is quite noticeable in France, and in other European countries, that they are markedly cleaner than we are in terms of what we are discussing today. Normandy, for example, which I particularly like, and where I go to wander round the countryside and go to the seaside and the races in the short time that I spend there, is a very enjoyable experience. Of course, the French know that this is an important issue because France relies on tourism, albeit that is a decreasing contributor to its economy. According to the old American economic mantra, every dollar that is spent by people coming to an area becomes $7 through the economic activity generated in that area. I think there is an element of truth in that. I know that we do not like learning from the French but it is a question of political will and priorities and of trying to make life more agreeable so that people become less depressed and more hopeful.

It is no good the Government coming out with meaningless slogans such as “the big society”. That is wrong in every respect. Things in Britain which are big are usually a problem. Someone should tell the Mayor of London that. People are now calling London Dubai-on-Thames—I did not make that up—because of the plans to build skyscrapers and the like here which will dwarf our wonderful domestic architecture.

The most cheerful thing this week for me was listening to a debate on television on the butchery of the Buckinghamshire countryside to create a fast rail link which will cut 15 minutes off the journey to Birmingham in the hope that that will lead to an increase in economic activity to the north of that fine city. However, it has now been discovered that the estimated cost of that project, which will be completed long after we are all dead, certainly after my death, is complete nonsense. We should get away from big projects and stop talking about the big society. As regards the slogan, “We are all in this together”, we are not all in this together. How can we be when you have the kind of bankers’ bonuses that are being paid, people in the public sector being rewarded for failure and the BBC in the vanguard of people throwing money about hither and thither, and yet, at the other end of the scale, some people hardly have enough money in their pockets to feed themselves and their children? We are not all in this together.

I see a friend of mine in the House who I sensed was becoming rather a Francophobe. I suggested that he might go to Normandy for a holiday. He did so and was so taken with it that he bought a house there. He thinks that it is a beautiful place and has told me, “It is absolutely marvellous. They take the rubbish away six days a week”. There is a different picture in different countries and we do not look good in comparison. We should not dance to the tune of the Government’s advertising slogans but get back to local government and listen to the comments of people such as the right reverend Prelate who spoke yesterday. I thank the noble Lord for introducing the Bill. I hope that it makes progress but I would not like to bet on it becoming law. I thank him for letting me hang my remarks on it.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Marlesford on securing this important debate this morning. Depositing litter is a wanton act of vandalism which ruins our towns and cities and especially our rural areas. Litter is not only unsightly but can be extremely dangerous to wildlife. It is, of course, a very serious form of pollution to water courses and rivers.

To rid ourselves of this plague—and it is a plague of very considerable proportions—we need not only to educate people but to use a pretty heavy-handed approach to control this disgusting practice. I agree entirely with the comments of my noble friend Lord Cormack about teaching discipline. A few years ago, I was walking with my son in the high street in Uttoxeter in the middle of the week. In front of us were some schoolchildren aged about 13 or 14. One of the girls dropped a sweet paper on the floor, so I picked it up and gave it back to her, saying, “I believe this is your property”. Her boyfriend then went for me. He told me that I could do something with my body which I thought was physically impossible. He was 14 years old. I thought that I knew more about these things than he did but that was obviously not correct. In that instance, is it not parents and schools who should instil discipline in these youngsters and teach them that dropping litter is abhorrent, anti-social and very unpleasant for Earls who pick it up?

By way of example, I live in the foothills of the Peak District National Park, a place of breathtaking beauty. The nearest McDonald’s outlet is 12 miles away in Uttoxeter, yet every single day of the year, litter mainly consisting of fast-food packaging is dumped from vehicles in Birdsgrove Lane outside my house. It leads down to Okeover Park, which is a stunningly beautiful place. The litter finds its way down into the River Dove, which is some of the finest dry fly trout water in the country. It is our equivalent of the River Test; it is stunning. We get cans, bottles and a range of other items. If one sees a car from which somebody is dumping litter, it is exceptionally unwise to approach it as the tirade of abuse one is likely to receive is considerable. If there is more than one person in the vehicle—it does not matter what age they are—it is highly probable that one will be subjected to threatening behaviour.

I also live close to Alton Towers. I declare an interest in that my father’s trustees sold it in 1924 and it became the mega-playground of youth that it is today. Of all the thousands of cars using our local lanes to go to and from Alton Towers, 95% of them behave properly as regards disposing of litter. I think that is probably because Alton Towers has lots of facilities for people to get rid of it.

As regards bottles and cans, we should carefully consider the approach used by numerous states in the United States—namely, Oregon and 10 others. The Wikipedia entry on the Oregon legislation currently states:

“The Oregon Bottle Bill is a container-deposit legislation passed in the U.S. state of Oregon in 1971 and amended in 2007. It requires cans, bottles, and other containers of carbonated soft drink, beer, and (since 2009) water sold in Oregon to be returnable with a minimum refund value. It is administered and enforced by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

The law is credited with reducing litter and increasing container recycling. As a result, items which used to make up around 40% of roadside litter now represent about 6%. With return rates averaging 90%, another major benefit is in waste reduction and resource conservation, particularly for aluminum. By comparison, states without similar bills recycle on average 28% of their containers. Beverage distributors retain all deposits not reclaimed by consumers”.

Surely, that makes sense, and perhaps that sort of idea could be translocated to fast-food outlets such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s and all the other disgusting foods that there are in this life.

When it comes to littering from vehicles, I do not think that my noble friend goes far enough with his ideas for a fine. The fine should really hurt, because that is what really gets to people—when it hits their pockets. For instance, as he suggested, one should be able to go for the registered owner of the vehicle, whether they were the culprit or not, and fine them. Should they fail to pay the fine, their vehicle should be impounded until such time as the fine is satisfied—that would stop them. It is time we put an end to this vandalism. I commend my noble friend’s Bill to the House.

My Lords, I support the Private Member’s Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, because he has highlighted an important issue that has concerned me for some years. It is my view that a local context often reflects the wider world in which we live: the micro is the way into the macro. Small acts can tell us a great deal about emerging social trends. In my opinion, the UK’s litter problem is just one of many national signs that illustrate the disconnection between political PR-speak and the reality on the ground.

When I first arrived in east London 30 years ago, in the middle of a rundown housing estate, I was greeted by an urban environment full of discarded litter: everywhere you looked there was rubbish. It was the canary in the cage singing its song and warning anyone who had ears of much bigger social issues. A dependency culture was being generated that was destroying any sense of personal responsibility or ownership of the problems that stared us in the face. The state ran 97% of everything but in fact no one was responsible for anything—a social and environmental disaster.

Getting a hold of our patch of east London involved the weekly practical task of picking up the rubbish dumped on the street outside and within the curtilage of our church buildings. I was determined that our bit of turf would look clean and tidy, and send out a clear message that we existed and were intent on taking some personal responsibility for our local environment. Actually, the mornings that I spent clearing up the rubbish turned out to be an important opportunity through which, as a young clergyman, I could engage with members of the local community. This simple interface with residents led to some crucial conversations and the development of important relationships with the neighbours. Litter was a radar; others noticed that one piece of terra firma had improved and started to join in tidying up the area. Today, the Bromley by Bow Centre owns and runs a three-acre site. Visitors often comment how beautiful and inspiring the park and gardens are. Free of litter, they lift the human spirit and breathe life into the local community.

Our rubbish problem is not confined to east London or inner-city areas. Litter is fast becoming the most noticeable feature of the conservation area in the Cotswolds where both the Prime Minister and I have houses. I was asked 12 years ago by the then sub-dean of Westminster Abbey to take responsibility for Stanton Guildhouse in the Cotswolds, a conference facility influenced by the arts and craft movement and situated in one of the most beautiful villages in England. Here, I must declare an interest. I therefore spend a great deal of time travelling between my house in Hackney and our family cottage in the Cotswolds. On a winter’s day, when the grass is short and the leaves are not on the trees, the A40 west of Oxford, near Witney, is framed by rubbish hanging from these trees and large pieces of litter clearly ejected from cars lie every few metres. I recently spent an afternoon walking a few miles down one of the country lanes off the main road near to the Prime Minister’s home. These quiet side roads are nearly as bad as the A40. Every 20 feet, I discovered in the grass verges a piece of litter clearly thrown from passing cars. This road is situated within the constituency of our Prime Minister, who is a self-proclaimed environmentalist; a tree is the emblem of his party.

None of the three main party leaders is getting a grip on litter. Rubbish scars their constituencies. Keep Britain Tidy estimates that around 33 million tonnes of litter are collected from Britain’s roads every year and that local authorities spend £1 billion each year picking it up. The social and environmental costs take that figure even higher, as do the costs to business and tourism. This is a serious problem; socially, culturally and economically. We need an urgent culture change if we are to properly address this matter, as other noble Lords have said. I have submitted two Questions about the A40 litter problem in the House in recent years. The responses I received were not encouraging. The last Minister who spoke on this subject in your Lordships’ House told us that research was being conducted but I have yet to see any action in response to that research.

I decided to take personal action and follow up the matter with the local council responsible for collecting litter along the A40. A senior official there provided me with some real insight as to why litter is increasing and not decreasing. He told me that the EPA—the Environmental Protection Act 1990, as amended in 2003—gave authorities many additional powers to deal with all elements of littering. A series of performance indicators were set which basically measured councils on how they responded to the problems. In particular, litter, graffiti, fly tipping and detritus were all measured. Councils that achieved high standards of cleanliness were given incentive funding. This performance indicator showed who was doing what on the ground and was, in the official’s opinion, “one of the most important indicators around at the time”. The significance of this indicator was recognised when it became a national indicator and data was collected three times a year through a simple system of measurement. However, the Government have in recent years removed this indicator. The obligation to act no longer exists.

I appreciate the desire of this Government to remove unnecessary red tape. I understand that some indicators are ineffective and resource hungry but we should be careful that in cutting bureaucracy we do not overburden those who we are trying to enable. Individuals such as the official I spoke to, who are trying to take personal responsibility and play an active role in society, are feeling cut loose by government. This official, responsible for litter collection, now has no way of challenging colleagues and other councils on current standards because many councils are managing litter collection information in different ways, so there is no clear way to measure and compare their effectiveness.

The Keep Britain Tidy campaign, whose meetings I attend in your Lordships’ House, likewise tells me that despite promising action on preventing litter in the coalition agreement, the Government have stepped away from this agenda. Whitehall seems to be leaving the problem to cash-strapped local authorities and other land managers to deal with. In a recent survey, nearly nine in every 10 local land managers across England, 87% of them, do not think that the coalition Government have achieved their commitment to reduce litter; 72% of the public agreed that the Government should do more.

Small actions such as those proposed in the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, could, importantly, enable communities to take control of their litter problem. This Bill points the finger of responsibility to a named and known person: the registered keeper of the vehicle. People used to laugh at Mrs Thatcher roaming across St James’s Park picking up litter with a specially designed stick, but she knew the importance of personal responsibility. If our political leaders want to be seen as credible, they need the ability to deliver on small practical matters that count for the general public. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is offering them an opportunity today to prove themselves.

Clearly, given that 62% of people in England drop litter, government is not solely to blame. However, political leaders should lead and government should govern. I fear the Minister is going to tell us that the approach that the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, proposes does not work and that it has been tried in two London boroughs but there is an insurmountable problem. Litter is an issue that is both divisive and decisive; you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Let us be part of the solution and either back this Bill or hear from the Minister what practical solution will instead be introduced.

The second argument that I fear the Minister will make is that there has always been rubbish on our streets and that we are in a better situation nationally than other parts of Europe. This argument will not do either. We should see this problem in the round. Not only is it costing the public purse dearly to pick up 33 million tonnes of rubbish each year but the consequential effects are enormous; highways have to be closed and numerous health and safety policies complied with as litter pickers are put at risk.

Of far more concern is the social impact of litter. It is one of the first signs of social decay. Keep Britain Tidy’s motto is,

“caring for the environment is the first step to a better society”.

Respect for the planet begins with the respect we hold for our neighbourhoods. It is a sign that you care about the world that our children will inherit. It is my view that human beings are the environments we live, work, and play within. Our environmental credentials will be measured by our actions. The actions we take in the environment around us define who we are and who we will become. Next time we ride out west through the Prime Minister’s constituency, I hope that his environmental credentials will be there for all to see, even to the unassuming walker who is looking at the verges.

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Marlesford for two reasons. First, I support what he is doing, and, secondly, as we are having a general debate about litter, it means that my own Bill, which will be taken as the last business today, will, in the quickest possible time ever, go through its Second Reading.

I shall try to introduce a little bit of internationalism into this debate. I like driving cars. My father spent his life motor-racing, including in a great Talbot, which my noble friend here may well recall, and I have worked internationally. I do not like going by train; I drive probably hundreds of thousands of miles across the continent of Europe. The biggest single change that I have noticed has been the improvement in the quality of the roads, the cleanliness of the roads and the greater facilities for disposing of rubbish. More than that, whereas we would have thought that our French cousins were a little bit lackadaisical in these matters, they have now become some of the toughest people in Europe. The fines imposed on the spot can be very severe as well.

I am assuming that this Bill covers things such as what falls off the back of a lorry. Things dropping off the back are, to some extent, litter and are extremely dangerous, particularly when empty lorries, usually from eastern Europe, are moving at extremely high speeds. That leads to more chipped and broken windscreens, and of course there are companies which believe that, even if you have a microchip in your windscreen, you can claim for a new one on your insurance, and that automatically puts up your insurance premium.

However, it is the general attitude to cleanliness that I find intriguing. Your Lordships will know that much of continental Europe—Germany, France and Italy—has weekly, or often twice-weekly, markets within local communities. At one time, they would remain relatively uncleaned, but now, within a matter of hours of shutting down, they are cleaned completely. People who bring in lorries and other vehicles are punished very severely if they do not stick to the rules. It is quite a simple punishment: everybody sneaks on their neighbours, a little man from the environment department turns up and, before you know it, you are given a little fine, which you have to pay at the post office within a very short period. If you do not, the fine doubles and doubles and doubles and, before long, you find that another person turns up suggesting that they should take your car away.

I happen to be a wine producer in France. We have a major problem there, which I had not realised. When you deliver grapes to be pressed, you may have juice running off the back of the trailer. You are now required to clean that up. Every single bit and piece must be collected, and the rubbish collections are superb. We have to admit that here in the London area in the UK there has been a dramatic improvement in rubbish collecting. However, the problem that we have with cars is: what do you put the rubbish in before you dispose of it? My wife gave me a whole range of nappy bags. I carry three or four of them—I have two in my pocket at the moment; I had not realised—in which to put things that I may have in my car. You drive a long distance eating wine gums and so on, you put the packet in the bag and when you stop for petrol you find that there are bins in which to dispose of it. That is now true of most garages in the United Kingdom. Because they are selling food and other items, they have bins in which to dispose of the rubbish. Therefore, dealing with these issues is purely a matter of organisation.

Looking at the international scene, I also find that now, believe it or not, some of the most badly behaved people are British families in large 4x4s driving to the Alps to ski. I have followed them occasionally and, for a bit of fun, have taken a note of their vehicle registration numbers. Occasionally, because I have friends in the DVLA, I manage to find their telephone number and I give them a ring. I just say, “I happen to be involved in the political world a bit, and it was noticed that at a particular point you did this”. Most of the continental motorways have a sign every kilometre or half-kilometre, or even more frequently, so you know exactly where you are, as do the spies. If the police decide that they may be a little short of income for Christmas, the number of fines seems to go up. There is of course absolutely no connection between the two issues, but this is self-interest.

There is something that I suggest should happen in this country. If you are travelling a long distance, you switch on the radio. Usually, I switch on a programme that broadcasts a mixture of music at my level, which is relatively low, and it then provides me with information. Usually a voice will say, “It’s Gloria here. Watch out. A bit has fallen off the back of a lorry at so-and-so”. You are given a complete report of what is happening. This occurs with smaller roads as well. If you have the new systems that you plug in, you can get everything you want. There is no reason why greater controls cannot be introduced effectively by using those systems. I suggest that one way of doing this is to get the radio stations, which are listened to by people travelling in cars, to point these things out.

I am really grateful to my noble friend Lord Marlesford, and I am also looking forward to being able to—

According to the noble Lord’s logic, would the answer be that all the Brits should go and live in France and all the French should come and live here?

The noble Lord has raised an interesting point. One worry is that most of the rich French seem to want to come and live here, but in general they are among the tidiest people of all. I am grateful to the noble Lord for making that point. We are in an international world and one of the difficulties has been in training tourists and others in how to behave when they come here, because there are inadequate bins in which to dispose of rubbish. Noble Lords might like to ask themselves: where in Parliament is there a bin to dispose of something? It is quite difficult to find one.

I am grateful to my noble friend. He has done his usual Marlesford job: he is really nice and gentle but, when it gets down to it, he sticks the knife in.

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Marlesford on introducing the Bill, and indeed I fully support his motives. A lot of discussion has taken place as to what the Minister’s reaction to the Bill might be but I think that I can give my noble friend Lord Marlesford a little bit of encouragement. As he said, these measures have already been introduced in London local authorities by means of a private Bill. My experience of private Bills is that often some of the measures in them have come into national law within a year or two. Therefore, there is sometimes hope.

Not very long ago, I saw a child throwing litter out of a car and this was done in full view of its parents, with the connivance of its parents and probably with the encouragement of its parents. That left me profoundly depressed, and it touches on the points that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, made at the beginning of his remarks. No responsibility was being taught and it left me thoroughly depressed about what the future might hold.

In my few remarks, I want to stick very closely to the content of the Bill because most of what can be said about rubbish has been said today. Most noble Lords have spoken about local areas, whether urban or rural, but this is also a problem on national roads—motorways and trunk roads—which are the responsibility of the Highways Agency. I therefore hope that when we come, in Clause 3, to the definition of civil enforcement officers and, in Clause 6, to the definition of a responsible authority, the Highways Agency, which patrols these roads—we have all seen it doing so—will be included in that category.

That is really all that I have to say about the Bill. I very much congratulate my noble friend and I hope that the Bill gets a fair wind.

My Lords, I have no wish to disrupt the consensus that congratulates the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, on a good Bill and on seeking to address a serious problem which, clearly, your Lordships care greatly about, judging by this debate and the passion with which some addressed it. We are also grateful to the noble Lord for garnering support for his Bill from a number of organisations and for reflecting that support. I am also grateful for the briefings we have had, and have heard in part quoted, from CPRE and Living Streets. He is right about the need for a culture change, which was reflected by my noble friend Lord Judd and others.

There is a danger in over-romanticising the past. We heard a flavour of that in some of the contributions today. It is probably true that we have cleaner air and bathing water. We are even seeing some culture change around people’s attitude to dog fouling, although not among everyone. It is still a problem but less of a problem than it was when I was growing up. However, I find it very odd when I see people hanging from trees bags containing dog mess that they have picked up. I do not understand what that is about. I am happy to say that none of them appears to be nappy bags, so I do not think that they were anything to do with the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, and his nappy bags. It is a strange habit that leaves me completely perplexed as I walk around the countryside occasionally walking my dog.

It is true that the problem of littering from vehicles is getting worse. I noted the comments made by the noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury. The drive-through restaurant is a problem that has increased littering from vehicles. Perhaps the corporate social responsibility of McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and others that he mentioned can be pricked to help councils deal with that. In some areas, those organisations try to do a little to deal with it. Certainly, where I live in Dorset, we see the same sort of rubbish that the noble Earl sees where he lives and much of it appears to be generated by the drive-through restaurants.

I wholeheartedly support this Bill and want to see it progressed. I have four points to make. The first, to repeat what the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, said, is to hear about the effect in London. We will be interested to hear what the Minister has to say on that. In Committee, we should explore whether this proposal will apply just to the road and verges off the road, as implied in Clause 6. Clause 1 refers to Section 87 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which refers to any place “open to the air” in the area of the authority. We need to clarify the definitions.

I am also interested in how we can enforce this Bill. We can learn from the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, and his experience travelling around the continent. Will we end up being able to use technology? I am not one to romanticise the past. Sometimes I romanticise the future and perhaps there are aspects of technology that we can use in terms of our smartphones that know where we are to take pictures of people if we can catch them in the act. But catching people in the act, as we know when trying to discourage dog fouling, is quite tricky. Indeed, the act of dog fouling tends to take a little longer than throwing something from a moving vehicle. I especially am interested in whether local authorities with CCTV would be able to use that technology in enforcing these measures and whether the latest code of practice generated by the Protection of Freedoms Act would allow that to happen, particularly given that this is the enforcement of a civil offence. That is something else we might want to explore in Committee.

Finally, I am interested in what would happen to the proceeds of these fines. According to the Bill, the levels would be set in regulations, which of course is right. Would a council be able to generate a surplus? Should it be effective in enforcement? Would it cover just the cost of the administration of prosecuting people for these civil offences? Could it also cover the cost of litter clearance? Those are interesting issues. There are some people who wanted this Bill to be more aggressive. They may want more aggressive fines and would be very comfortable with councils generating a surplus.

I do not wish to detain the House. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, and, certainly, the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, were very keen that we should see an end to any procrastination from the Government on this issue. I look forward to hearing from the Minister whether he will accept the invitation made by the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, to bring forward a government Bill to bring into effect the intentions of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, whom we support wholeheartedly.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Marlesford for introducing his Bill. Like my noble friend Lord Lawson, I congratulate him on his persistence. I know that this is an issue he cares deeply about, as do other noble Lords, and I share that concern. Like him and the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, I regularly collect litter along the road which runs past my house. Let me make clear that it is thoroughly irresponsible to throw litter from vehicles, as it is to litter in any other way. It is important that we find an effective way to bring home to people that throwing litter from car windows is unacceptable behaviour.

I agree with my noble friend that roadside litter is a blight on some areas of England. I travel around the country carrying out my role and clearly notice that while some parts of the country are clean, others are regrettably less so. This reinforces the fact that those responsible for tackling littering all take slightly different approaches to fulfilling their responsibilities and that some are more successful than others.

What has come out of this debate today, among other important things, is that littering from vehicles has always been a difficult problem to solve. The sense of anonymity that the litterer appears to feel while encased in his car only serves to accentuate that problem. Unfortunately, for many people it seems that it is almost second nature. When confronted with an empty drinks can or a chocolate wrapper in their box on wheels, they see throwing it out of the window as an acceptable course of action, rather than, as they should, taking it home with them.

The high-profile case of the broadcaster Alice Arnold who, like my noble friend Lord Shrewsbury, took matters into her own hands and delivered a discarded plastic bottle back to its owner while at a set of traffic lights near Hampton Court, led to her being hailed a national heroine. This highlighted the strength of feeling that many of us have about this matter and the need for action. We also need to ensure that any such action is based on sound evidence in order for it to be effective and to make a difference.

Throwing litter from vehicles is already a criminal offence under Section 87 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. There already are considerable penalties for those who litter, including prosecution in a magistrates’ court where an offender can be fined up to £2,500 and acquire a criminal record. As an alternative to prosecution, a local authority enforcement officer can issue offenders with an on-the-spot fixed penalty of up to £80. The threat of a criminal record for throwing away a piece of litter can act as a strong deterrent, especially as it could have implications for the offender’s career and finances.

However, the seriousness of these consequences also means that it is important that enforcement officers have good evidence which would stand up in court before issuing a fixed penalty notice for littering. When litter is thrown from a vehicle I know that it is not always easy for enforcement officers to know exactly who threw it, especially if the vehicle is moving.

As he explained, through his Bill, my noble friend seeks to enable local authorities to issue civil penalties to the registered keeper of a vehicle if someone inside his vehicle jettisons litter. The key point in his proposal would remove the problem currently faced by enforcement officers of identifying the littering offender with the degree of certainty that would be required for a criminal prosecution. Essentially, this Bill says that we do not quite know who committed this crime but someone should pay, so we will punish the only person we can identify.

The Bill is similar to provisions brought in under the ninth and 10th London Local Authorities Acts, to which several noble Lords have referred, which apply only in London. These powers, which were introduced with the support of London Councils and came fully into force in June 2012, allow London boroughs to issue a civil penalty to the registered keeper of a vehicle where enforcement officers witness littering from it. My department is closely watching this new approach. We have already started the process with London Councils of examining how effective this legislation is and whether it provides a viable way forward in tackling this issue nationally.

However, I have to tell my noble friend that London Councils tells us that there are some emerging questions. Most importantly, as yet none of the London boroughs has issued a single civil penalty notice for littering using the new powers. As a result, as yet we have no data on whether the civil penalty for littering from vehicles in London has been effective in reducing littering behaviour. As the London boroughs have been aware that these powers were coming since the ninth London Local Authorities Act was passed in 2007, this delay in beginning to use the powers in itself seems to suggest that setting up and operating this new approach is not quite as simple as it may seem.

We understand that two boroughs were expected to begin piloting the new approach late last year but they seem to have faced some delays, particularly in setting up the new appeals system. Other boroughs have mentioned difficulties in identifying littering offences using CCTV cameras—the noble Lord, Lord Knight, asked about that—or the need to reorganise their back office functions to handle enforcement of both civil contraventions and criminal littering offences.

Another borough mentioned the anomaly that the new powers create in that littering is a criminal offence if it occurs outside in the open air but it is decriminalised once it occurs from inside a vehicle. We know that some motoring organisations have expressed concern that making the owner of a vehicle responsible for all littering from it regardless of who committed the offence could be seen as an infringement of an owner’s civil liberties, which of course we want to avoid.

I sympathise strongly with my noble friend’s impatience. We all want to see a reduction in this problem. The approach taken in London may ultimately show us the way forward but, until it has had significant practical use, we will not know for sure whether it makes it easier for enforcement officers to take effective action and whether that, in turn, would lead to a reduction in litter on our streets.

However, the issuing of fines is not and cannot be the only answer. With the best will in the world, enforcement officers cannot be everywhere at once and the use of CCTV does not appear to be a magic bullet. Apprehending those who litter at night, at speed, in isolated areas or on quiet rural roads, which many noble Lords were concerned about, will remain difficult.

If we are to tackle the problem effectively, changing people’s behaviour is essential, as my noble friend Lord Cormack said. If people did not feel it to be acceptable to throw their litter out of their car windows, the problem would not exist. As I said in response to the proposals of my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones on leafleting a couple of weeks ago, we believe that the most effective way to change people’s behaviour is to change their attitudes to littering. Changing legislation is not the only answer or even the best solution.

The fact that littering is a criminal offence reflects the unacceptable and harmful nature of this behaviour and it has a certain deterrent effect. Treating littering from vehicles as a civil contravention may make it easier for local authorities to tackle the problem but there is also a risk of sending the wrong message about the seriousness of this conduct.

Of course, the balance between taking action against polluters, criminals and those who persistently behave in an anti-social way while protecting the civil liberties of law-abiding citizens is a delicate one, but we must do our best to get it right. Ultimately, we believe in treating people as adults and providing the freedom to do the right thing, rather than simply making it easier for enforcement officers to fine someone—anyone— whether or not they have got the real culprit.

I referred to the need to change people’s attitudes, as did the noble Lord, Lord Judd, very sensitively. We continue to back Keep Britain Tidy’s call to action. The Love Where You Live initiative works with businesses, local authorities and civil society organisations to make an important contribution to behaviour change on littering in all its forms and to enable local authorities, civil society groups and communities to take local action together to improve their neighbourhoods and engender renewed civic pride.

As part of the Love Where You Live initiative, a meeting of representatives from the vehicle sector, trade associations, the Highways Agency, local authorities and civic society groups convened last year to discuss littering from vehicles in general with a view to agreeing a voluntary commitment to raising its profile. Actions arising included commitments by bodies such as the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the British Parking Association and the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association to carry anti-littering messaging on their websites and vehicles; to build an anti-littering message into their training programmes; and to provide more facilities for disposing of litter, whether it be in cars or outside the wall of a pub or coffee house. These changes are simple and achievable and I thank all of those who got involved at the time and are continuing to do so now.

We have also raised awareness with other government departments. This collaborative approach, with, for example, the Highways Agency, can be seen in the electronic message signs over a number of motorways or the large banners at motorway slip roads advising drivers to dispose of their litter in a responsible manner. Of course, still more could be achieved by vehicle hirers, motoring associations, manufacturers and service stations.

I should like to comment briefly on Part 2 of the Bill, which would require local authorities to publish, at least once in a financial year, the names of any organisations with which they are contracted to collect litter and the amount paid for this service. I understand that one aim of this proposal is to enable anyone with a complaint about a particular problem to contact the relevant contractors directly. This proposal would constitute a move in the opposite direction from the decision made by the Government in 2010 to relieve local authorities of the burdensome requirement to report information about street cleaning to central government. This requirement had until then been part of a national indicator set for local authorities to report against, which we have now abolished. To reintroduce such a requirement, as the Bill would do, would be an added administrative and financial burden on local authorities and would undermine the principles of localism for very uncertain gains. Much of this information is already published or available through existing access to information legislation, with suitable safeguards to protect commercially sensitive information. Forcing the blanket publication of contracts in this way could also undermine a local authority’s ability to negotiate competitive contracts for street cleansing and waste management, thereby further increasing the cost of these services to the taxpayer. It is surely also reasonable for local authorities to determine for themselves how and to whom people should report concerns. If people are reporting incidents directly to cleaning contractors, it may make it more difficult for the local authority to monitor the performance of its contractor’s obligations.

Turning to noble Lords’ questions, my noble friend Lord Marlesford ragged me and suggested that there had been a too brief consultation on the Bill. These are not government proposals so, of course, we have not conducted a consultation. However, we wanted to know what some local authorities thought about this Bill and views were sought via the Keep Britain Tidy membership network, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport and London Councils. We were pleased that we received 27 responses within the time available. The views they expressed were mixed. Some local authorities think that it is too costly and complicated to pursue offenders for littering from vehicles. Others were concerned that the potential for different fines for the same offence depending on whether it was criminal or civil, or that the increase in enforcement action, would lead to fewer fines being paid. Some also expressed concern at disclosing details of contracts, citing commercial confidentiality issues.

My noble friend Lord Lawson charged me with speaking to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State about this debate—of course I will. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, referred to difficulties in moving new estates into local authority responsibility. I will talk to the Department for Communities and Local Government about that and write to him, if I may.

My noble friend Lord Shrewsbury suggested deposits on bottles and referred to legislation in place in certain states in America. I seem to remember that in my youth there were deposits on Ribena bottles. We have looked at this idea, which is in use in several US states, as part of our consideration of our packaging recycling targets. Unfortunately, the costs identified by the review appeared to outweigh the benefits, but I am happy to meet my noble friend to discuss this research further if that would be helpful to him.

The noble Lord, Lord Mawson, referred to the removal of national indicators. As I said earlier, a decision was taken in 2010 to relieve councils of the burden of reporting. Of course, a statutory duty on councils to clear litter and refuse remains. The standards to be achieved are set out in the Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse. As a matter of interest, Keep Britain Tidy’s annual local environment survey for England, which is based on the same set of indicators, shows that litter levels have remained much the same over the past decade.

The noble Lord, Lord Knight, asked who would enforce the Littering from Vehicles Bill. Of course, it is my noble friend Lord Marlesford’s Bill but my understanding is that the powers will be enforced by a civil enforcement officer, who would be either an employee of the local authority or the employee of a contractor of that authority employed to act as a civil enforcement officer. The noble Lord also asked whether local authorities would be able to keep the income and what would happen to it. My noble friend’s Bill says how penalty charge receipts are to be used. Under Schedule 4 to the London Local Authorities Act 2007, London boroughs are required to,

“keep an account of their income and expenditure in respect of the administration and enforcement of section 61 (penalty charges) of this Act”.

At the end of the financial year, any deficits should be made good out of the council’s general rate fund. If there is a surplus, the borough is required to apply this,

“to purposes connected with the improvement of the amenity of the area of the council or any part of that area”.

I assure my noble friend that we are not closed to the possibility of national legislation to tackle littering from vehicles but, as I hope I have explained, a number of significant issues need to be resolved before we decide to roll out the powers in the London Local Authorities Act to the whole country. So far, London local authorities have had more than five years to prepare for the introduction and implementation of these changes but it has evidently not proven as simple as might have been hoped. As a result, we still do not know whether the new powers actually work effectively to reduce littering. Until we have that evidence—until we are sure that simply issuing more fines for littering from vehicles will change people’s behaviour and lead to a real reduction in littering, and that decriminalisation does not send the wrong message about the seriousness of the offence in question—it would be premature to extend these potentially controversial powers nationwide.

I must express my reservations about my noble friend’s Bill. However, my noble friend has made and continues to make a really important point: litter is a blight and litter from vehicles is an important element of that. My noble friend wants to deal with it. I want to deal with it. I would be more than happy to arrange a meeting in my office for my noble friend to meet the relevant people from the local authorities trying out this method in London so that we can explore it together and see whether this is the best way to tackle it.

My Lords, one of the big privileges afforded to Back-Bench Members of either House is to be able to initiate Private Members’ Bills. One of the great purposes of initiating such Bills is to prod Governments into action when action is needed. There can seldom have been a better illustration of both sides of the coin than in this debate, where we have had virtually 100% support from all speakers from the Back Benches and the opposition Front Bench, and a virtually 100% negative response from the Government’s Front Bench.

I was very glad that my noble friend Lord Lawson, with his experience and the great offices he has held, challenged the Government to act on this and to do something; in particular, his appeal to the Secretary of State over the heads of the officials who have taken the line that my noble friend the Minister has so faithfully read out. I hope that some of us will continue on that track anyway.

I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd. He and I came to this House on the same day and we have always been close friends and colleagues. I am very glad he spoke in the way he did, emphasising the extent to which litter represents a cultural deficit and the fact that by tackling it we are improving culture.

My noble friend Lord Cormack pointed out that we do not want the Government to allow their trumpeted localism to be expressed as mere tokenism. I am afraid that we have not got very far with that, going by my noble friend the Minister’s speech.

I was very interested in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, particularly the psychological element. Actually, picking up litter is very therapeutic. If you pick up litter, it is an enjoyable process. You can see the result. You know you are doing something not only for yourself but for other people, and it is very satisfactory. I am not a fisherman but I am always told that fishing is wonderfully therapeutic. To me, picking up litter has that role.

My noble friend Lord Shrewsbury pointed out that it is a lack of discipline which results in litter being dropped and that is something that needs to be tackled. I am very glad that he referred to Oregon and what happens in America. I know Oregon very well. I used to go there every year for many years for work purposes. It is an advanced state, from which we can learn a lot. What actually happens with its rule about litter being returnable for a small fee is that in as far as the more affluent may dispose of it, the less affluent will collect it up, so it generates income and it is a rather neat method. Oregon is an extremely pleasant state as a result. The rule has been in force for a long time.

My noble friend Lord Selsdon told us about Europe. I so agree with him. Europe is in general a great deal cleaner than the United Kingdom. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Brabazon for also taking part.

I was very encouraged by the opposition Front Bench and I hope that we shall continue to get its support. My noble friend the Minister’s argument that delay is always a good excuse for further delay is a fascinating one, if not one that I accept. Churchill once said:

“Don’t argue the matter. The difficulties will argue for themselves”.

Of course, we can rely on officials to find the difficulties and argue frantically for them, and to look for the negative rather than the positive. My noble friend said that he backs the call to action, but the last thing he was going to take was any action.

I am most grateful to all who have taken part in this debate and I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

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

Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill [HL]

Second Reading

Moved by

My Lords, on 6 August 1885, late at night in the Commons debate on the Criminal Law Amendment Act, Henry Labouchère suddenly produced an amendment to the Bill before the House. This amendment criminalised homosexual acts. The only discussion was over the penalty to be imposed. Labouchère had proposed a maximum of one year. Sir Henry James suggested two years and Labouchère agreed. The whole debate had four speakers, including Labouchère. It lasted four minutes and consisted of a total of 440 words, but 75,000 men were convicted under this amendment, and Alan Turing was one of those.

Sixteen thousand of those men are still alive, and under the terms of the Protection of Freedoms Act which we passed last year, they can all now apply to have their convictions disregarded. This will provide real comfort for them, their families, their relatives and their loved ones and will help to put right a little a serious historical injustice. As the Protection of Freedoms Bill went through this House, I tried to amend it to extend this disregard posthumously to the 49,000 men similarly convicted but now dead. I felt strongly that we should provide the same comfort and partial rehabilitation to the families, friends and loved ones of those convicted but now dead as we have to those convicted but still alive.

The Government did not agree with us. They pointed out that, among other things, it would not always be possible in very old cases to know when sexual activity was non-consensual or under age. I think that the Government were wrong then and I think that they are wrong now. I think that it would be simple to grant a posthumous disregard only when the applicants can provide compelling evidence that there was consensual, age-of-consent sexual activity involved, but the Government were firm.

I then turned to the issue of a pardon for Alan Turing. It seemed to me that if we could persuade the Government that this was the right thing to do, it would be a symbolic first step towards a disregard for the 49,000 others convicted and now dead, and perhaps a step forward towards successfully amending the Protection of Freedoms Act to that effect when the opportunity arises. I knew about Turing. Turing only ever had one doctoral student. This was a man called Robin Gandy, who was Turing's closest friend and the executor of his will. Robin Gandy taught me mathematics when I was an undergraduate at Manchester University in the 1960s, and I was familiar with the Turing story from an early age. However, the Government were not to be persuaded about a pardon for Turing. The Government, like their predecessor, acknowledged Turing's contribution to the war effort at Bletchley Park, they acknowledged his contribution to computing and they acknowledged the injustice and terrible cruelty of what was done to him. They were absolutely right to acknowledge all these things. They are all true.

Turing led the way in cracking the Enigma code. This alone probably turned the Battle of the Atlantic. Respected commentators estimate that this shortened the war by two years, saving many, many thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of lives. This was Turing's work. Turing is also one of the fathers, if not the father, of computer science. Every time anyone, anywhere, uses a computer for any purpose there is a kind of debt to Turing. And Turing was treated with terrible cruelty, as were all convicted under the Labouchère amendment.

My noble friend Lord McNally said in February last year:

“It is tragic that Alan Turing was convicted of an offence which now seems both cruel and absurd—particularly poignant given his outstanding contribution to the war effort”.—[Official Report, 2/2/12; col. WA 341.].

However, the Government could not be persuaded to exercise the royal prerogative of mercy in Turing's case. They argued that a posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence. He would have known, they argued, that his offence was against the law and would be prosecuted. This is not a strong argument. The royal prerogative of mercy has been exercised quite recently in exactly these conditions.

As part of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, 18 convicted terrorists, some of them murderers, were granted pardons. These people were presumably aware that their offences were against the law and would be prosecuted. And everyone acknowledges that the previous Government had bravely and rightly granted a statutory pardon to all those British soldiers—304 of them—executed in the First World War for what were then seen as military crimes. So it was suggested that it would be better trying to pursue a parliamentary pardon, a statutory pardon, rather than pressing the Government to exercise the royal prerogative of mercy. That is what this Bill sets out to do.

People recognise that Turing was a hero and a very great man. As long ago as 1999, Time magazine named Turing as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century. In 2002, Turing was ranked 21st in the BBC’s poll of the 100 greatest Britons. Last year, in the centenary of Turing’s birth, there were a very large number of events all over the world celebrating Turing's life and his achievements. More than 40 countries were involved in those celebrations.

Here in the UK, there were a large number of events, including an exhibition on his work and times at the Science Museum, now extended by popular demand until October this year. The Royal Mail issued a commemorative stamp and in March, Turing's universal machine—the theoretical basis for all computers everywhere—was voted the greatest British invention of the 20th century. The head of GCHQ, Sir Iain Lobban, said publicly that,

“we should remember that the cost of intolerance towards Alan Turing was his loss to the nation”.

Last September, the Information Commissioner's Office inaugurated the Alan Turing lecture series. The first lecture was delivered by Professor Christopher Andrew, the official historian of M15, who spoke of Turing's greatness and his inexcusable persecution. Last year, Turing's papers were saved for the nation by a last-minute intervention by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, which made a donation of £200,000.

There is now a statue of Turing in Manchester, where he lived, worked and died. There is now a statue of Turing in Paddington, where he lived for a while. The statue stands alongside statues of Mary Seacole and Paddington Bear. All three statues were voted for by the residents and it strikes me as a peculiarly and encouragingly British set of choices.

At the end of last year a group of very distinguished scientists and mathematicians and Members of this House wrote to the Telegraph asking the Prime Minister to pardon Alan Turing. This letter was signed by Professor Stephen Hawking, Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, Dr Douglas Gurr, chair of the Science Museum Group and Sir Timothy Gowers, the Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. The letter was also signed by, among other Peers, the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner and Lord Rees of Ludlow, and the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington. I am very glad to see them in their places today and very much look forward to hearing them speak in a few moments.

There has also been a successful musical of Turing's life, and next year at the Barbican there will be the world premiere of a new choral work celebrating his life, composed by James McCarthy and commissioned by the Hertfordshire Chorus. Soon there is to be a new film of Turing's life. Benedict Cumberbatch is to play Turing and Keira Knightley is to play his girlfriend—which might seem a little odd, because of course, Turing was gay, and it was because he was gay that he was treated so appalling by the Government of the day.

As I think everybody knows, he was convicted in 1952 of gross indecency and sentenced to chemical castration. He committed suicide two years later.

The Government know that Turing was a hero and a very great man. They acknowledge that he was cruelly treated. They must have seen the esteem in which he is held here and around the world.

There are two quotations which, for me, sum up Turing's greatness and establish him as a British hero. The first is from Professor Jack Good, who was at Bletchley Park with Turing and who died last year at the age of 91. Professor Good said that,

“it was a good thing the authorities hadn’t known Turing was a homosexual during the war, because if they had, they would have fired him .... and we would have lost”.

The second quote is from the very distinguished Harvard professor Steve Pinker in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature. Professor Pinker says:

“It would be an exaggeration to say that the British mathematician Alan Turing explained the nature of logical and mathematical reasoning, invented the digital computer, solved the mind-body problem and saved Western Civilization. But it would not be much of an exaggeration”.

It is not too late for the Government to pardon Alan Turing. It is not too late for the Government to grant a disregard for all those gay men convicted under the dreadful Labouchère amendment and similar Acts. I hope that the Government are thinking very hard about doing both those things. But while they are thinking, Parliament can act. We can start by granting a pardon to Turing, and we can continue by finding a way to amend the Protection of Freedoms Act to extend the disregard to all who were treated as cruelly as Turing was simply for being gay. We can start that process today with this Bill, and I beg to move.

My Lords, my mother had a friend called Lady Winifred Renshaw, who looked and sounded like the late Queen Mary. I well remember her saying: “Mr Asquith was a man I would never have travelled alone with in a taxi”. I tell this vignette to remind people that it was not Mr Asquith’s possible taxi behaviour which is remembered but what he actually achieved for this country.

I wish to make it clear that I support the noble Lord’s Bill to grant a pardon to Alan Turing. Although in 2009, the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, issued an apology for Turing’s treatment, this Government should do more. This is not about legal issues but about recognising the debt that this country owes to Alan Turing. There are many ways in which one could compensate for the time that has gone by without that being done.

Alan Turing followed a distinguished degree with a fellowship at King’s College, Cambridge, and the Smith’s Prize for work in pure mathematics. His life and work were exceptional even before he went to Bletchley. The University of Surrey has already honoured Turing, by creating a road and having a statue named after him. If the university can do it, why can we not?

When I arrived at Bletchley in 1941, there were about 400 people. When I left, there were 6,000, including the Americans. The mansion, known to us as “the other place”, and never gone into, stood bare. None of the white buildings or other Nissen huts existed. Only the Nissen hut known as Hut 4 remained—and still does, although it is now a small bar. One did not wander around the buildings. One went to the room one worked in on shifts and, apart from a visit to the canteen, one did one’s work and was then transported to one’s billet. Thus one really met new or different people only in one’s transport to and from work. Unless asked by a senior member of the section to deliver a message, one remained in the same room year after year. The block I worked in was devoted to German naval codes. Only once was I asked to deliver a paper to Alan Turing, so although I knew that he had invented “Colossus”, which turned the war around in our favour, I cannot claim that I knew him. However, I am certain that but for his work we would have lost the war through starvation.

I commend to your Lordships a small exhibition of Alan Turing’s work, about which you will probably hear a great deal more and which is presently on show at the Science Museum. I will make one small extra point, if I may: in my section, we were all employed by the Foreign Office. Next door, Wrens worked on shifts, like us. At the end of the war, the Wrens all received the service medal commonly known as the EOBGO. We got nothing. After a lot of arguing and annoyance we were graciously issued with a slightly ridiculous badge which simply said: “I also served”.

My Lords, it is indeed a wonderful pleasure and delight to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington. It is one of the unique benefits of this House that we have the noble Baroness, who worked as part of that team at Bletchley which was, for us, part of our saving in the Second World War.

I support this Bill and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, not only for introducing it but for the detail and content that he went into. We owe a huge debt to Alan Turing, and debts have to be paid. Ours has been too long in the paying and now is the time to do it. It is important that we do it.

The code of practice at Bletchley was utmost secrecy and such were the standards in those days that people actually followed it. It does not happen today but it did in those days and the many people who worked at Bletchley never told anyone in their families, even to their dying day. When Alan Turing was charged in 1952, the public had very little idea of the work he had done at Bletchley. They had very little idea about Bletchley at all; it was only in the 1960s that it started to seep out just what our debt was to the people who worked there. He was given the choice between going to jail and having chemical castration. He chose the latter, which meant treatment for a year. The year after that, he took his own life. He was 42 years of age. One cannot but help wonder, had he lived his full term of life, just what benefits we and the rest of the world would have seen from this man. After working on the Enigma code at Bletchley, he went on to Manchester and the first computers in this country, which matched anything that they had in the States. He has been compared with Crick, Einstein and many others.

I feel very strongly that the apology in 2009 by Gordon Brown, the then Prime Minister, who so rightly called Alan Turing’s treatment appalling, is not enough. We need to take this Private Member’s Bill that the noble Lord has put forward and pass it. As the noble Lord, Lord McNally, did in a previous debate, on the basis of what he had from the civil servants, no doubt the Minister will give a whole host of reasons, including legal ones, why it cannot be done. This place is full of legal expertise and I am sure there are ways in which we can meet the requirements of the Bill without causing the huge problems that may well have been pointed out to the Minister. We are certainly not hoping today to hear him say, “We will go back and have a meeting”.

Now is the time to act on this: 37,000 people signed a petition that this be reviewed and that Alan Turing be given a pardon. Manchester and Bletchley have recognised him. As we have heard just now, what he did for this country has been recognised throughout the areas of work that he carried out. Law is important, yes, but doing the right thing is as important. It is the right thing to give this pardon to Alan Turing. There are many ways in which it can be done that I am sure would not cause added difficulties. As we found after many years of campaigning for those people executed in the First World War, when your nose is to the grindstone you can find a way. I believe that the noble Lord has presented us with a way of recognising Alan Turing and that there is unanimity that we should do so. If barriers are in the way, perhaps a way needs to be found around them.

I support the Bill. I hope that the Minister will confirm that the Government will give it the necessary time. I have little doubt that if it goes down the Corridor, it will get the support in another place that it has had here.

My Lords, I join other speakers in complimenting the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, on his determined advocacy, which has led, despite setbacks, to this Bill. The fact that 37,000 people signed the petition seeking a pardon for Turing testifies to the public interest in this cause. The petition triggered an apology from Prime Minister Gordon Brown, which was welcome, but supporters of the Bill feel that it would be appropriate for Parliament itself to make a gesture on behalf of the country as a whole, to recognise formally that we deplore the way in which our legal system in the 1950s treated a man who not only was one of the country’s greatest scientists but did the state great service during World War Two.

Many of us—including the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, I think—regard this Bill as in some sense a second- best or interim option, in that we would have preferred a measure that offered the same comfort and recompense to the families and admirers of any of the many thousands of other individuals, now deceased, who were convicted under the same law. Still, we are where we are, and in Turing’s case the facts and his character are well documented. I would hazard a guess that others whose family members were victims of the same obsolete law and cruel sentence would, albeit as second best, welcome a gesture towards an especially prominent but symbolically representative individual.

We are privileged to have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, bearing direct witness to Turing’s work at Bletchley Park. I will therefore say nothing about that except to reiterate that one of the especially tragic consequences of Turing’s premature demise is that he was no longer alive when the veil of secrecy was lifted and the public could express belated gratitude for the achievement of the code-breakers, and particularly to him as a leading participant.

What about his other scientific work, both before and after the war? He never received enough credit for that either, but that was for a different reason: because his greatest insight, in a paper published back in 1936—his study of the scope and limits of a general purpose computer—was so far ahead of its time that its implications took decades to be fully appreciated. His visionary contributions to computer science, along with those to artificial intelligence and developmental biology, have crescendoed in their impact as computers have become ever more pervasive in our lives. Indeed, there would now be a consensus that Turing belongs in the pantheon of the very greatest 20th-century scientists. It would be easy to expand on these achievements and speak at length, but I am not going to do that. The important point is that there is a consensus today that he is a major figure in the history of 20th-century science, something quite apart from his very special key role at Bletchley Park.

Turing’s code-breaking work makes him a specifically British hero but his scientific contributions are acclaimed throughout the rest of the world just as much as they are here. Anyone who has done a course in computer science, be it in the US, Japan, Brazil or anywhere else, will know his name. They will know about the Turing machine and perhaps the Turing test. It is likely that many will have been curious enough about him to have learnt the main facts of his biography. Even educated people in Asia and the Americas know little about the English penal system, but if they know of any individual cases then Turing’s is likely to be among them. It has, after all, featured in plays, best-selling books and will soon feature, as we have heard, in musicals and films. He has become an icon of gay rights as well as among scientists. Millions around the world know how he was treated, how he was convicted and the bizarre and cruel penalty that he suffered. Gordon Brown’s apology was welcome but, although it registered in this country, it did not register internationally in the way that a declaration by Parliament would. That is why a formal pardon redressing the damaging perception would be widely received and welcomed internationally.

I note that the president of the Royal Society and others in similar roles have lent their support to this cause. Turing is one of those who laid the foundations of the modern world, and the global interest in his centenary testified to that. We cannot undo the wrong done to him by the cruel operation of the pre-1967 law—he is perhaps the best known victim of it. A pardon would be acclaimed not only by those in Britain who deplore his shameful treatment but worldwide. Turing’s own reputation is assured but, as British citizens, surely we should do all that we can to erase the stain on the reputation of our own criminal justice system. That is why I support the Bill.

My Lords, I join others in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, on the way in which he has introduced his Bill today and his persistence in pursuing this very good cause. It is particularly appropriate that we should be debating this Second Reading just two days after the announcement of Royal Assent to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act—as it were, the ending of a particular chapter of which the Labouchère Act, to which the noble Lord referred, was the shameful beginning. The case that he made for granting a statutory pardon to Alan Turing is compelling, and I wholeheartedly support the Bill.

I am pleased to declare an interest as a trustee of the Science Museum Group, which, as the noble Lord said, has staged an astonishingly successful exhibition called “Codebreaker—Alan Turing’s Life and Legacy”, which has already won first prize in the British Society for the History of Science’s Great Exhibitions competition. It opened on 21 June 2012, and has been visited by many thousands of people. It commemorates the centenary of Turing’s birth by telling the story of how he helped lay the foundations of modern computing and, of course, at Bletchley Park, broke the Enigma codes of the Nazis, which, as everyone now accepts, certainly shortened the Second World War, perhaps by as much as two years. An Enigma machine is indeed on display in the exhibition; it belongs to Sir Mick Jagger, who has kindly lent it for the purpose of the exhibition.

Turing’s first major contribution to science had been a paper written in 1936, when he was just 24, on an abstruse theoretical problem in the philosophy of mathematics. That work brought Turing to the attention of a small group of mathematicians and philosophers, but it was its theoretical description of a universal computing machine, capable of carrying out any computable task, which was later seen as the conceptual basis of today’s stored-program computers.

For Turing, his 1936 universal machines were simply thought experiments, but for others they signalled the future of computing—and the beginning of computing. Turing himself wrote one of the first practical designs for a stored-program computer, later realised as the Pilot ACE, which is on display in the Science Museum exhibition.

Apart from describing Turing’s astonishing achievements in Cambridge, Manchester and Bletchley Park, there is, obviously, some very poignant material about his private life and his shameful treatment at the hands of the state, which, instead of honouring him as a war hero, subjected him to judicial punishment so appalling that it is hard to comprehend, and which indeed is the reason for this Private Member’s Bill today.

Being gay at Cambridge in the 1930s and, indeed, at wartime Bletchley Park, did not seem to be too much of a problem for Turing, but the mood changed in post-war Britain and a new repressive morality emerged. Homosexual people, both men and women, were increasingly characterised as deviant and harmful to the fitness of the race, and their presence in society became a matter of national concern. The Cold War intensified these concerns as gay people were assumed to be at risk of blackmail, thus endangering the security of the nation.

In 1952, following what was then an unlawful sexual relationship, Turing was tried and convicted of gross indecency under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885—the same statute, of course, that was used against Oscar Wilde. Turing was stripped of his security clearance and his post-war consultancy to the successor of Bletchley Park, GCHQ, was brought to a sudden end. He was offered the choice of imprisonment or a one-year course of hormone treatment to suppress his libido, and he took the latter. As has been said, it amounted to chemical castration.

On 7 June 1954 he ingested a large amount of cyanide solution at his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, and was found dead the next day by his housekeeper. The coroner recorded a verdict of suicide, saying that Turing’s mind had become unbalanced. He did not leave a suicide note and the full circumstances of his death are still not known.

Among the more than three-quarters of a million people who have been to see the Codebreaker exhibition at the Science Museum was a group of Members of your Lordships’ House, who made a special visit on 27 November led by the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington. Being with her in the Codebreaker exhibition was a real privilege—as, indeed, was hearing her speak in this debate today. Winston Churchill described the Bletchley Park cryptanalysts as his “golden geese that never cackled”. I have never considered the noble Baroness as a goose, golden or otherwise, but I am sure that Churchill meant it as a compliment.

It is marvellous to see the noble Baroness here today.

The noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, referred to the letter from some very distinguished people—and some less distinguished people, such as myself—published in the Daily Telegraph on 14 December last year, in which we called for a posthumous pardon for Alan Turing. We said:

“We write in support of a posthumous pardon for Alan Turing, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the modern era. He led the team of Enigma codebreakers at Bletchley Park, which most historians agree shortened the Second World War. Yet successive governments seem incapable of forgiving his conviction for the then crime of being a homosexual, which led to his suicide, aged 41 … It is time his reputation was unblemished”.

Since then, the Government have been presented with an online petition with tens of thousands of signatures, but they have still not pardoned Turing. I hope that when the Minister replies, he will be able to say that they have changed their mind, and that they will accept this Bill which is in front of us today.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, on his determined commitment in introducing this Bill. I have been involved in the university and research world for a good part of my working life, and one of the jewels in the crown of UK research is information technology and artificial intelligence, in which we are now a world leader. Alan Turing is rightly regarded as the father of modern computing. Without Turing’s seminal, innovative work we would almost certainly have been overtaken in this field by scientists from other countries who were on the same track.

He was based in Manchester University, in the heart of the industrial and commercial north of England, over the Pennines from Yorkshire, where I was born. It was at school there—surprisingly, I guess—that I first came across the names of MHA Newman and the Colossus electronic machine, Pat Blackett and positrons, and Turing’s universal machine concept. I suspect that it was unusual, but we had a very dynamic maths teacher who must have been interested in the early days of computing, or maybe just had a maths friend at Manchester.

It was only later that I learnt of Turing’s involvement at Bletchley Park, and later again that I realised just how significant his work was for the war effort when my husband, a mathematician and engineer, became very engaged with Enigma and the codes and codebreaking efforts of the war years at Bletchley Park, and I suspect that he has one of the more comprehensive collections on the subject outside specialist libraries. He explained to me the seminal role played by the team at Bletchley Park in developing the ideas that would produce the computer I used every day. He also tried to help me to understand the genesis of the internet, but that is a very different story.

I am so happy to be speaking in the same debate as the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, who has given the House, not just today but on other occasions as well, such rich memories of those times at Bletchley Park, having been there at the same time as Alan Turing. She has set his legacy in such a vivid context.

From the work he started at Bletchley Park, and continued later at the National Physical Laboratory and Manchester University, Turing laid the foundation for modern academic computer science, an area where over the years British universities have made an outstanding contribution, and which has led, additionally, to a great deal of effective technology transfer which has contributed significantly to the UK economy.

It is worth saying that neither Turing himself, nor indeed anyone else at the time, would have been able to predict the eventual outcomes of his work, and I cannot think of a better argument for continued public funding and national support for blue skies research, where outstanding scientists and thinkers are given free rein to pursue fascinating and compelling ideas. But for his criminal prosecution, which it seems certain led to his untimely death, it is reasonable to assume that Alan Turing would have made even greater contributions to mathematical science and advanced our understanding of human ingenuity yet further. Others have described the circumstances of his death, but in the week where this House has agreed legislation on same-sex marriage, it is tragic to reflect that only 60 years ago, and in my lifetime, it was possible, indeed legal, to prosecute and criminalise a man for having consensual sex with another man.

Anyone who saw Hugh Whitemore’s play “Breaking the Code”—I was fortunate to see Derek Jacobi as Turing—which thematically linked Turing’s cryptographic work with his homosexuality, could not fail to be moved by the poignancy and horror of his story.

Alan Turing was a wartime hero. He was credited with breaking the German Enigma code and with an astonishing number of insights which changed our world and inspired scientists and mathematicians to explore ideas which led to the explosion of technological developments we benefit from today; yet his life and further work were destroyed by the anti-homosexuality laws at the time, laws which the previous Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned as “horrifying”, “inhumane” and “unfair”. In 2009, he gave an unequivocal apology on behalf of the Government for the way in which Turing had been treated.

So my instinctive reaction when I saw this Bill was to assume that it was uncontroversial. However, when the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, introduced a similar Bill last year, the centenary of Turing’s birth, the Ministry of Justice called Turing’s fate,

“a sad indictment of the attitudes prevailing at the time”,

but rejected the proposal of a pardon. I thought this extraordinary and pusillanimous. I want to support the noble Lords, Lord Sharkey and Lord Rees, the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, and others in their efforts to gain a positive sign of redress.

The issue was raised last June in a Commons debate, so I looked at the ministerial statement in last year’s Commons debate and at other government statements made over the past few years to understand how it was that someone who had received an official apology from the Government could be denied a pardon. It seems that the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, which enables those convicted of consensual homosexual activity to have their convictions disregarded, applies only to the living—so if Alan Turing were alive today, he would have redress. A pardon can be given by Her Majesty under the royal prerogative of justice, but the noble Lord, Lord McNally, has said that it is government policy that this should be used only where someone is innocent of the offence and not to undo the effects of legislation which we now recognise as wrong. So there is at least one remedy available, but the Government are unwilling to use it, perhaps to avoid creating a precedent.

However, the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, has said that he is seeking a statutory pardon, not a royal pardon, something that was quite common historically. In fact, a recent example was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, and drawn to our attention in the Library briefing—the Armed Forces Act 2006, which pardoned servicemen convicted and executed for cowardice or desertion. So, far from being impossible or unconstitutional, there is a remedy which has been used quite recently and could be applied in the case of Alan Turing. However, there has been no movement from the Government here either. Horror of horrors, were this to be done for one man, Alan Turing, it might encourage the relatives or friends of others who were treated just as appallingly to seek the same redress. As a matter of fairness and justice, that seems a pretty cowardly argument and one for a petty jobsworth rather than an honourable Government.

The Government described the statutory pardon given under the Armed Forces Act 2006 as a recognition that execution was not a fate that the individual deserved, irrespective of the fact that it was lawful at the time. The conviction and awful punishment was not deserved either by Alan Turing, and that included the humiliation of being categorised as a security risk after everything he had done during the Second World War. Let us at least put this case right, and if in doing so we can offer a means of redress to others who have suffered a similar fate, I personally would be happy to see that happen.

My Lords, I am proud to speak in support of the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, and glad, too, of the chance it gives me to add my tribute to a man who had long been accepted as a genius of rare character and quality long before his dreadful death at the age of 42. As a past president of the British Academy, I am further glad to join my noble friend Lord Rees of Ludlow, a past president of the Royal Society, who has spoken of Turing with far greater authority than I could ever muster. Both of us might well have hoped that Alan would have graced either of these great learned bodies for many triumphal years. Indeed, he might have become one of the microscopic number to be elected, like the noble Lord, Lord Rees, himself, to both bodies. By 1951, as a newly elected FRS, Turing was already well on track.

In a very different Second Reading debate on 3 June, to which the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, has alluded, I spoke of the gay minority suffering cruel and vicious treatment not only in centuries long past, but in many societies even today. Alan Turing was, of course, one of that minority and he endured, as we have heard, especially from the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, prosecution and conviction and, instead of imprisonment, the “mercy” of treatment for his disorder. In consequence he was hounded and ostracised until he died by his own hand in June 1954, only three years before John Wolfenden successfully proposed the decriminalisation of the kind of acts for which Turing had been indicted. Unsurprisingly, I and no doubt many others have had Alan very much in mind during recent weeks. Indeed, his ghost seemed to stalk both Houses of Parliament during those debates.

Turing’s parents both belonged to families of some importance in Raj-era India, and this meant that their two sons, Alan and John, faced years of separation from them so that they could be educated in the UK. English boarding schools were not the best incubators of scientific talent, but Alan seems to have thrived at Sherborne, and in 1931 he entered the prized embrace of King’s College, Cambridge, becoming a fellow in 1935. By then he was a polymath in areas bordering both the British Academy and the Royal Society. How could he not, with such luminaries as Bertrand Russell and John Maynard Keynes at hand? He was familiar with the work of two Austro-Hungarian thinkers, Johann von Neumann and Kurt Gödel. My noble friend Lord Rees has told us of the significance of the 1936 paper on the Entscheidungsproblem and the enormous influence that that was to have for many years. Incidentally, it led to the first quote used by the Oxford English Dictionary for its long entry on the Turing machine, a concept, as we have heard from the experts, which became not merely the foundation for computational science and theory, but for generative linguistics. Noam Chomsky, for example, made much of the Turing machine in his Syntactic Structures of 1957. By then, sadly, Turing was dead. However, the years between included lengthy, successful war years at Bletchley, about which we have heard from none other than the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, who knows more about the Bletchley days and Turing’s contribution there than anybody else in this House. None of us in this debate can do more than merely outline the vast amount which the world at large owes to this young man. No one can remotely guess how much more we would have owed to him if he had become an old man.

I end by noting something surely perverse, if constitutionally sound enough, about this Bill. It would grant Alan a pardon, when surely all of us would far prefer to receive a pardon from him.

My Lords, this campaign has been going on a long time. I remember at Cambridge, from 1957 to 1961—1957 being the year of the Wolfenden report—that we had a campaign for the rehabilitation of Alan Turing. As somebody said to me just the other day, some campaigns take longer than others. We are familiar with that in the trade union movement. I am quite sure this one will come to fruition very soon.

As my noble friend Lady Warwick of Undercliffe has pointed out, the government line seems to be at once technical and legal but, in practice, an objection to “opening the floodgates”. The logic is clear that the law which we have at the moment does not apply posthumously and there are many thousands of people involved. If the Government wish to press that argument, the one thing which must be borne in mind is that under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 there is no equivalent legal provision in other fields. The floodgates argument is to do with this field.

Allowing deceased persons to apply under the disregarding procedure would somehow be the equivalent in reverse of what the Russians seem to have as a reasonable statute at the moment. Something like that might be the best long-term solution. I ask the Government and the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, to respond to a parallel method of achieving what we all want. That is to give national recognition in a quite dramatic way, which would be a pardon in practice and a huge change in people’s perception to his having been a national hero. That would constitute a collective and representative pardon.

I have considered over the past few days how, as my noble friend Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde put it in a striking way, this is a debt of honour. Michael Foot wrote rather a good book called Debts of Honour, and he was the sort of person who would immediately think in these long, historic terms about his great heroes—Shelley, Hazlitt and people like that. You could say the same in the field of science. If you look up Whitehall, Trafalgar Square and so on, you will see our national heroes; and even outside here, there is Marochetti’s statue of Richard I, the Lionheart, at the start of the first crusade. Well, that is fair enough—or not, as you might say. However, we could make our debt of honour to Alan Turing somehow representative of the need to put our heroes of science and creativity—Newton and so on—on the national plinth. Of course, there is a plinth going spare at the moment in Trafalgar Square. I add to this campaign one which I am sure Whitehall will take a bit of time to get used to. Nevertheless, it would be a striking gesture, and I put that forward in relation to the Bill.

My Lords, I will speak briefly in the gap. I declare a sort of interest, which is that Naval Section VI, of which the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, was such a distinguished member, was run by my father, Geoffrey Tandy, and my mother was one of those WRNS in the next-door hut. I did not know that they were treated in a discriminatory way—or rather that the noble Baroness herself was treated in a discriminatory way—but I have learnt something today on which I shall ponder. However, that is not my point.

Will the Minister, in considering his answer, take into account something that has struck me as this debate has gone on? The late Lord Britten, who was a Member of this House although I do not believe he ever took his seat—I refer, of course, to Benjamin Britten —is being celebrated this year. Born in 1913, he was almost an exact contemporary of Alan Turing and lived his entire adult life in a homosexual relationship with the distinguished tenor Sir Peter Pears. Everybody who knew them knew that that was the relationship of both their lives. They were accepted—perhaps without it being declared explicitly, but accepted all the same—as distinguished members of this society.

The recognition that Benjamin Britten had when he was elevated to your Lordships’ House very shortly before his death was in despite of that knowledge. It is particularly important, as we think about what we do about Alan Turing now, that we recollect that. It is at least possible, is it not, that had he not suffered the gross and undignified punishment he endured, as a consequence of which he took his own life, he, too, might have ended up on these red Benches? Had he been so elevated, it would have been no less than his due. I hope that when the Minister comes to reply he will bear in mind that comparison in thinking about how he responds to the Bill.

My Lords, what a morning. What a privilege to be here today to debate the Bill. There are many reasons for supporting this Bill, so ably and movingly introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, but I will suggest three good ones. However, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Quirk, is right, and we should seek a pardon from, rather than for, Alan Turing.

Of my three reasons on which I will comment, the first is the belated recognition, which all noble Lords have described, of the extraordinary contribution made by Alan Turing during the Second World War. As other noble Lords have said, it has been a privilege today to hear something of that direct from the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, who also served, and whose presence in this debate is a fitting tribute to all those Bletchley Park warriors who fought there throughout the war.

In relation to the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, I will make two short comments. One is to acknowledge the role that she and her many colleagues played during the war, in ways that at the time were kept very secret. The other is to acknowledge the role that she still plays in your Lordships’ House and has done for some 33 years. When I entered your Lordships’ House, I was given lots of very good advice. One of those pieces of advice was—as with actors, who are told never to appear with children or animals—not to appear in a debate with the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, as I would be outclassed and out-performed. Clearly, it was good advice. Her renowned sense of fun must have been much on display during those war years and I am sure that it added to the pleasure and reduced the strain caused by the nature of the work there.

It is very fitting that today’s debate, as we have been reminded by my noble friends Lord Faulkner of Worcester and Lady Warwick, follows so closely that on the Third Reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill here on Monday. The irony that Alan Turing was prosecuted for his sexuality when he had helped fight Hitler, who had prosecuted and gassed homosexuals, was surely not lost on him. How he might have smiled to find us in the same week legalising same-sex marriage and seeking to pardon him. It is to be hoped that both will come into effect by 2014, 60 years after his untimely death.

Secondly, this gives an opportunity for those noble Lords who have yet to visit the special exhibition in the Science Museum, described by my noble friend Lord Faulkner, which commemorates Alan Turing, to acknowledge that he was a brilliant young mathematician —a genius in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Quirk —whose revolutionary pre-war concept of a “universal computing machine” underpins computers as we know them, as was described by the noble Lord, Lord Rees of Ludlow. The noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, called him the father of computing sciences. That is why Scientists for Labour and many other scientists have written to urge support for the Bill.

Sadly, as we have heard, Turing’s post-war research was constrained by his prosecution and then curtailed by his untimely death, as my noble friend Lady Dean said. The Bill also allows us to make good the sadly ignored 2011 recommendation of the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee that the network of technology and innovation centres should be called Turing Centres, after the founder of computer science. The committee stated:

“We consider that this country owes him a debt of obligation for the way in which he was treated”.

There is a third reason, which goes beyond this single case. Rectifying the discrimination and intolerance of the past—I understand why some feel that we should not concentrate on just one victim when there were so many others—not only enables us to try to redress that wrong but may give hope to others, here and around the world, who today suffer from intolerance, injustice and prejudice, whether for their religious, social, racial, artistic, cultural or other way of life.

Society moves on—whether over slavery, women’s rights, sexual mores, child labour and exploitation or the denial of human rights—but before it does, there are individuals who suffer, sometimes from the prejudice itself and sometimes for their courage in speaking out. We are picking out just one person today, but it may give hope to others that one day the injustice of their suffering will similarly be recognised. As the noble Lord, Lord Rees, said, it is perhaps symbolically representative.

The distinguished professor, Graham Zellick, with whom I often agree, advised against the Bill as he thinks that a pardon would be misconceived. He wrote:

“History should not be rewritten but allowed to speak of the misuse of the criminal sanction, the intolerance and cruelty of earlier times and the evolution in cultural and moral norms”.

I draw a different conclusion. The acknowledgement by today’s decision-makers, and the persistence of new norms and acceptance, are surely a beacon to those who continue to suffer today. Even though we cannot right the wrong to Alan Turing, we can acknowledge that while our society has not always trumpeted human rights and equality, we can all learn and can improve society for the benefit of all. We support the Bill and wish the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, every speed as he takes it though its coming stages.

My Lords, first, on behalf of the Government, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Sharkey on bringing forward the Bill and securing its Second Reading. I also formally acknowledge the incredible contributions we have heard today, which I will come to in a moment and which give us cause to reflect and contemplate. In preparing to answer the debate on Alan Turing, I reflected that when I joined your Lordships’ House, I was not far from his age when he died. I said in my speech at the time that I looked on the House as a place of great learning, and also a place of great wit and wisdom. I am sure that all noble Lords will agree that today’s debate demonstrated all those attributes.

Alan Turing’s achievements were immense. As many noble Lords have acknowledged, he was a brilliant mathematician and one of the world’s most original thinkers about the possibilities offered by computing. How casually we take our iPhones, iPads and BlackBerrys as a means of communication. Perhaps we do not spend time contemplating and reflecting on how these things arrived in our pockets and purses. It was Alan Turing who talked at that time about a concept that many found inconceivable, that of artificial intelligence. In what were to prove his last few years, he developed new thinking on morphogenesis, the study of growth and form in biology. In a 1951 paper, he posited the theory that sunflower seeds conformed to the Fibonacci sequence and, rightly, in honour of the centenary of his birth last year, scientists at Manchester University decided to test this theory. With the help of volunteers around the world, they were able to study 557 sunflowers, and—you know what—found that the Turing theory appears to have been correct, which I am sure is not a surprise to us in your Lordships’ House.

To me, this demonstrates three things: first, Turing’s remarkable and original mind, capable not only of understanding highly complex concepts, but of making connections between them which illuminate both; secondly, it is yet another instance of Turing being well ahead of his time, as in the example of the Turing’s test of artificial intelligence, which requires a machine to pass for a human in conversation, and despite annual contests has not yet been won; thirdly, and finally, the sunflower research is testimony to the huge respect in which Alan Turing is rightly still held by scientists and those with an interest in science throughout the world.

As has been widely illustrated in today’s debate, Turing was not only a great scientist. When his country needed him, he stepped forward to play his part in ensuring the democracies and freedoms that we all enjoy today. During the Second World War, Alan Turing put his intelligence and understanding of computers at the service of his country, leading one of the code-breaking teams at Bletchley Park. It is therefore particularly poignant, for me as a Minister in government, to have the great honour of participating in this debate with my noble friend Lady Trumpington, who has once again not only informed and educated the House but entertained it with her usual insight and expertise. In her intervention, she said that she had laid many an egg. She has also provided great pearls of wisdom, and today is no exception.

It is no exaggeration to say that, without the fantastic work done by Alan Turing and his team, including that of my noble friend Lady Trumpington, the war would have lasted significantly longer and many more lives would have been lost. After the war, Turing continued to work for the intelligence services at what was to become GCHQ, doing nationally important work. However, his conviction for gross indecency resulted in his categorisation as a security risk, and his exclusion from GCHQ and from the work where his brilliance could have continued to benefit these nations.

All these achievements contrast starkly with the appalling punishment which Alan Turing suffered, of chemical castration, as a result of his conviction for homosexual conduct, and which may well have led to his suicide at the age of only 42. This is something that we now, rightly, regard as totally and utterly abhorrent. As has been said before, what he did was a crime, and he was convicted as a result of due process at that time. The noble Baroness, Lady Dean, spoke of the petition. I pay tribute to other noble Lords who have been involved in this campaign for a long time, and others outside your Lordships' House, including eminent scientists such as Stephen Hawking, and who have called for Alan Turing to be pardoned for the offence for which he was convicted. Understandably, as we have seen today—and rightly so—this matter raises strong and passionate feelings, as the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, demonstrated in drafting his Bill.

I commend the work of the noble Lord, Lord Rees, on this campaign. Many will have read the article in yesterday’s Times by my noble friend Lord Ridley, who said that this is not just about pardons but about recognising the achievements of someone who was not only a code-breaking hero but truly one of the greatest scientists our country has ever seen.

No pardon can undo what was done to Alan Turing or, indeed, wipe out the facts of his appalling treatment. As several noble Lords have pointed out, were Alan Turing still alive today—I believe that he would be about 101—he would be entitled to have his conviction disregarded under the provisions in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. As several noble Lords have noted, the effect of those provisions is to remove from the public record any reference to a conviction for certain homosexual activity which would not be deemed criminal today. As noble Lords have also pointed out, these provisions are available only to the living. However, the fact is that the disregard is there in the 2012 Act. I think we all recognise that the world in which we live today is a very different place. Our world has changed and our laws have changed. Indeed, as was acknowledged by several noble Lords, events earlier in the week demonstrated just that. We have talked about appropriateness and I think it is particularly apt that I am joined on the Front Bench by my noble friend Lady Stowell, who was central to those events.

Alan Turing himself believed that homosexual activity would be made legal by a royal commission. In fact, appropriately, it was Parliament which decriminalised the activity for which he was convicted. The Government are very aware of the calls to pardon Turing, given his outstanding achievements, and have great sympathy with this objective, and with the objectives of my noble friend’s Bill. That is why the Government believe it is right that Parliament should be free to respond to this Bill in whatever way its conscience dictates and in whatever way it so wills.

If I may seek noble Lords’ indulgence, I speak not only as a Minister but as a Whip. The noble Baroness, Lady Dean, said she hoped I would say that I would not take this away. I am taking away a great deal but I am not taking away what we will be doing next. If nobody tables an amendment to this Bill, its supporters can be assured that it will have speedy passage to the House of Commons. If no amendments are tabled for Committee, there does not need to be a Report stage, so the Government can table Third Reading by the end of October. This will take place on the Floor of the House. If no amendments are tabled for Third Reading, it is formal and the Bill immediately goes to the Commons.

I end how I began by saying that your Lordships’ House is a place of great learning and wisdom. Today’s debate is testament to that quality.

My Lords, this has been a very interesting and stimulating debate. I thank all noble Lords who have spoken for their knowledgeable and thoughtful contributions. I particularly thank my noble friend Lady Trumpington for her contribution. I know that the whole House listened, as I did, with rapt attention to everything she had to say. I am sure that the whole House joins me in thanking her for being here today and speaking to us. My own link to Turing is only at one remove and I found it very moving to listen to direct contemporary experience.

Many points were made in today’s debate and there is no need for me to try to recapitulate them. However, I have taken note of them all, including, of course, the comments about a plinth in Trafalgar square. I wish to make a few remarks about the Government’s response, although they are not the ones I was expecting to make. Before I do so, there is one other person to whom I owe a debt of gratitude and that is my noble friend Lord McNally. He has consistently encouraged me, in the face of difficult odds, to press ahead with my request for a pardon for Turing and for a disregard for all those convicted, as Turing was. The noble Lord is in Lithuania today on government business. I am sorry that he could not be with us to respond to the debate and I am sure that we would have all enjoyed hearing him carrying out his ministerial duties. However, there is no loss in him not being with us today, and I want briefly to turn to the Government’s response.

I am encouraged by the response, which is generous and timely, and I am very grateful. I am sure that I speak for most people in the House when I say that. I thank the Minister for his words in the closing part of his speech. This seems to be a situation in which the merits of the argument are slowly permeating government attitudes and thinking. Perhaps they will resolve into a clear and decisive outcome before too long. I very much hope that the Government will continue to think carefully about Turing and others who were similarly convicted, and that the merits of a pardon and disregard will seem to the Government to be increasingly compelling. I hope that when the Bill reaches the Commons, the Government will be, at the very worst, sympathetically neutral to it.

As a noble Lord mentioned, the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, pointed out in an article in yesterday’s Times that Turing’s first major contribution to mathematics was a solution to the so-called “halting problem”—in other words, knowing when to stop, which is a problem occasionally seen in your Lordships’ House as well. Therefore, in the spirit of Turing, this is where I now stop, and I urge your Lordships to give the Bill a Second Reading.

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

Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment (Amendment) Bill [HL]

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.