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Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am not sure of the comparative evidence of this country as against others in terms of litter. However, it is a serious problem which distresses many people in the towns and countryside. It is also an expensive problem. The sum of £323 million a year is spent by local authorities in England on street cleaning alone. It is not an issue that we can neglect.
There has been extensive consultation on the issue. The Government expect to issue an updated code of practice for litter authorities in the summer which will give guidance on publishing litter plans and information on powers to tackle litter and refuse; it will include a new zone category for land used for special events which attract large numbers of people.
Viscount Long: My Lords, bearing in mind that chewing gum is now classed as litter, can the Minister say how many prosecutions have taken place in recent times from spitting out this terrible gum all over our streets?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I cannot differentiate between prosecutions relating to litter of various types, and specifically chewing gum, which I know is a matter of concern for the noble Viscount and was discussed recently in this House. There were 886 fixed penalty notices for littering offences issued in 1996-97; 626 people were prosecuted for litter offences in 1996-97, resulting in 468 convictions.
Lord Gisborough: My Lords, is the Minister aware that many parents resent their children being sent out to pick up litter in the grounds of their schools? Would it not be a very good thing if children were made to go out and pick up the litter they have dropped so that they learn from an early age not to drop it in the first place?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I believe that this is a matter of personal responsibility, and that all individuals have our part to play. Those of us who are parents or grandparents have our part to play, not only in relation to our own behaviour but in influencing that of other generations. As a parent, I should certainly not be at all upset if my children were sent out to clear up litter.
Lord Chesham: My Lords, is the Minister aware of a very successful campaign that was waged in New South Wales called "Do the Right Thing"? The campaign was aimed at children; plastic bags for litter were handed out. The children encouraged others to put the bags into their cars and were telling their parents, "Come on, Dad, do the right thing". One of the most embarrassing things that can happen is for your child to pull you up for littering. This was a government initiative. Could this Government take a similar initiative?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am not aware of that particular initiative. As I said, the Tidy Britain Group, funded by the Government, does run such campaigns. We are currently in the middle of the National Spring Clean campaign, which is in its eighth year. This campaign raises awareness and encourages schools, voluntary organisations, businesses and individuals to become involved and tidy up their own local area. The noble Lord might be interested to know that last year 3 million people were involved in the campaign.
Lord Glenamara: My Lords, with regard to the question by my noble antonym on the other side of the Chamber, does my noble friend the Minister agree that the horrible habit of throwing chewing gum on the pavement is defacing our towns and cities throughout the country? Pavements in London are filthy with chewing gum. Are the Government undertaking research or providing guidance to local authorities on how to remove it?
Baroness Hayman: Yes, my Lords. Through the Tidy Britain Group we are working with a leading gum manufacturer to develop effective cleansing methods and to investigate the composition of the gum itself in order to make it less difficult to clear from the streets. I understand, however, that there are difficulties in
Lord Bowness: My Lords, I am sure that the House will welcome the fact that there is to be another campaign. However, if local authorities are to do more in this field, how will that be paid for? Does she agree that 886 is an abysmally small number of notices to have been issued in one year compared with the amount of litter that can be easily counted almost anywhere?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, as I have told the House, local authorities, government departments, schools and colleges have a duty to ensure that their land is kept clear of litter and refuse so far as is practical. I know that a number of local authorities, because they set this as a priority, employ litter wardens in order to implement the Environmental Protection Act provisions dealing with people who drop litter. This is basically a matter for local authorities and for litter authorities. The Tidy Britain Group believes that there are in excess of 100 litter wardens presently employed and that the number is rising. We expect to have up-to-date figures in June.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, that is one suggestion. There is another way of dealing with that particular problem; namely, issuing a street litter control notice. District councils may issue to the occupiers of certain types of premises or land a street litter control notice which requires the occupiers themselves rather than the local authority to clear the litter or refuse from the street or open land which is adjacent to their own land. The types of land to which that may apply are very often those used for the sale of food and drink, petrol stations, places of entertainment, betting shops and premises selling lottery tickets.
Lord Renton: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that a large proportion of the railway sidings in this country are littered with material of various kinds, including old sleepers, rusty bits of old iron and all kinds of things which together amount to an eyesore? Will she try to persuade those who are responsible for the maintenance of sidings to do something about it?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, railway land is an interesting example. Privatisation meant that there was no longer a litter authority which had a duty to remove litter from railway land. That has been one of the problems in cleansing stations of litter. We are taking action to give high priority to drafting the necessary orders to make sure that Railtrack is a litter authority.
Lord Carter: My Lords, owing to an unfortunate error, the Speakers' List issued earlier this afternoon for the Second Reading of the Government of Wales Bill was incorrect. The names of Peers listed, from the noble Lord, Lord Rees, onwards, are in the wrong order. I am told that a revised Speakers' List is being issued and should be ready within the next five minutes. The House has my apologies for this most unfortunate error.
I wish to say on behalf of my noble friend how grateful he is, and how grateful I am, having taken part in the relevant debates, to those noble Lords and the noble Baroness who took part. I am grateful in particular to my noble friend Lord Howe on this Front Bench and the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, on the Liberal Front Bench, who made good contributions to the Bill. I trust that the noble Baroness who responded so charmingly to the various points that were made can feel that tribute has been paid to her contribution. I only hope that when this Bill moves on to another place it receives much better treatment than the equivalent measure did some months ago. It is a Bill that is worthy of enactment.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I support this amendment Bill. I do so in the absence of my noble friend Lord Alderdice, whose contribution on this matter is well known. I am aware that the Bill deals with only a small part of the Mental Health Act 1983. It is clear that there is a lack of government initiative in relation to certain parts of that Act. This measure is designed to put that right, and it deserves support.
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, for his kind and generous words. I join him in thanking all noble Lords who contributed to debates on the Bill. Their contributions were well-informed, thoughtful and in the best traditions of this House. They enabled us to discuss a very important area of concern and interest.
For all the reasons that I gave at previous stages, the Government cannot support this Bill. However, as I have also stated previously, we are considering the need for a review of the Mental Health Act and will take careful account of the views expressed in the debates in this House.
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