HC Deb 29 March 1972 vol 834 cc403-5
2. Mr. Montgomery

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many convictions there were under the Litter Act, 1958, in the last year for which figures are available; and what was the average fine imposed.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Eldon Griffiths)

In 1970, the last year for which figures are available, 1,777 persons were found guilty of offences under the Litter Acts. Information on average fines is being obtained and I will let my hon. Friend have this as soon as it is available.

Mr. Montgomery

Although he has not got the figures, would my hon. Friend agree that he would expect the average fine to be quite small? As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State yesterday launched a great campaign to do more about this problem of litter, does my hon. Friend consider that stronger action could be taken by the Department to try to do something about this very serious problem?

Mr. Griffiths

Yes indeed. My right hon. Friend has very substantially increased the maximum fine. In addition, he has made a very substantial increase in the moneys available from the Government to the Keep Britain Tidy organisation. At the conference we had yesterday, a number of important practical suggestions were made and they will be followed up by my Department.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that this question, like most of these things, is one of enforcement? Is he further aware that there are thousands of instances of litter being deliberately dumped in my borough and in most of the East London boroughs and that when enforcement is asked for it is refused? Will he do something to see that the law is enforced? That is the answer.

Mr. Griffiths

Enforcement is a matter in the first instance for the police, whose resources are limited. But it is open to any citizen, including the hon. Gentleman if he wishes, to bring a prosecution.

4. Mr. Haselhurst

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the maximum fine that can be imposed under the Litter Act, 1958; if he is satisfied that this continues to provide an adequate deterrent; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

The maximum fine which can be imposed has been increased by the Dangerous Litter Act, 1971, from £10 to £100. I hope that this increase, together with the other influences at work, will result in a visible reduction in litter, but only experience will tell.

Mr. Haselhurst

Does my hon. Friend think that, either by publicity or by official advice, magistrates might be made aware that their powers are there to be used? Does he think it might be a good thing if they were given the alternative power to require offenders to indulge in a spell of clearing up litter as an effective deterrent?

Mr. Griffiths

Matters of the courts are for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but I will draw his attention to what my hon. Friend has said.

Sir R. Russell

Is my hon. Friend aware that those of us who went to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in Malaysia last year found that in the cities of Malaysia and Singapore there was no litter at all because, I think, of the possibility of a heavy fine for leaving litter? Could my hon. Friend make inquiries into whether anything can be learned from that?

Mr. Griffiths

The maximum fine has been increased from £10 to £100. It is really a matter of enforcement, but also a matter for every person to think carefully before he throws away his litter in everyone else's back yard.