HC Deb 11 January 1978 vol 941 cc1655-6
11. Mr. Townsend

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the Government's anti-litter programme.

Mr. Denis Howell

We are now urgently exploring with the local authority associations the date at which the litter abatement provisions of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 can be implemented. I hope that it will be soon. I expect to be able to announce shortly a substantial increase in the grant in aid to the Keep Britain Tidy Group for 1978–79.

Mr. Townsend

Will the Minister now give his support to compulsory deposits on canned and bottled beverages? Would not such a scheme reduce litter, prevent waste and, in time, lead to a reduction in costs?

Mr. Howell

It might do all of those things, but it is not a matter on which I am prepared to comment in answer to a supplementary question.

Mr. Hardy

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that in some parts of the country in the past two or three years an improvement seems to have taken place? Does he agree that in the rest of the major parts of the country, where the situation is gravely unsatisfactory, firm sanctions must ultimately be applied?

Mr. Howell

I am delighted to hear that my hon. Friend has found places where there has been an improvement. We must all make our own judgments. I believe that the filth and squalor in our cities is getting worse. I hope that people will apply their minds to this problem, as it is an important environmental factor affecting millions of people living in our cities.

Mr. Stephen Ross

Is the Minister aware that one of the disastrous effects—certainly in my constituency—of the rate support grant settlement recently announced is that, unfortunately, further cuts will need to be made in the staff who look after the highways? This will mean that the amount of litter, which is growing, will become even worse. The trees that have been planted by councils over the years to improve the environment are not getting the attention that they need, and are dying for the lack of it.

Mr. Howell

I should be very sorry if that were the case, but it is a matter for the local authorities to decide their priorities within their expenditure. However, I am convinced that all local authorities are taking their environmental obligations increasingly seriously.