§ 1. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will seek to amend the Litter Act 1958 to make it more effective.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr Giles Shaw)
The maximum fine for an offence under the Litter Acts of 1958 and 1971 has recently been increased to £200, and we are currently consolidating these Acts with other litter provisions in existing legislation.
I see no need to amend this legislation for the purpose suggested by my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Litter Acts are not being enforced, as much as anything because the police have so many other things to do and prosecutions are expensive? Should not the Litter Acts be amended to enable local authorities to appoint litter wardens, as happens in the Irish Republic, with the right to impose on-the-spot fines?
§ Mr. Shaw
I accept that it is not always easy to enforce the Litter Acts, but I remind my hon. Friend that each year about 2,000 prosecutions take place under the Acts. The imposition of direct fines would involve many constitutional issues. Implementation of section 24 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 would provide additional powers for local authorities.
§ Dr. David Clark
Has the Minister read the report of the Keep Britain Tidy Group on marine litter, which found evidence of widespread litter dumping on the beaches round our island? I know that the Secretary of State may not be interested, but many people take holidays in this island. Is the Minister prepared to take action to ensure that those beaches are cleaned up?
§ Mr. Shaw
I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to a report about beaches by the Coastal Anti-Pollution League, which gained publicity in the morning papers. If he is referring not to that report but to a report by the Keep Britain Tidy Group, I should inform him that we have taken immense steps, in particular with the local authorities, to try to improve the situation. Of 14 beaches 848 expected to need derogations under the EC directive, only four were in fact submitted, so there has been an improvement.