HC Deb 17 December 1986 vol 107 cc1185-6
1. Mr. Colvin

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received from local authorities about his Department's document on the environment entitled "UK 2000."

The Minister for Environment, Countryside and Planning (Mr. William Waldegrave)

We have received 22 letters from local authorities and one from a local authority association.

Mr. Colvin

I am sure my hon. Friend will welcome the fact that local authorities have been among the first to welcome the initiative for tidying up Britain. I am sure also that the House will congratulate my hon. Friend on putting up £750,000 of Government money to help fund the scheme and welcome the fact that business has responded with a further £400,000, but, under the present financial restrictions placed on local government, will it be able to come in with its share of funding of a scheme which, if it is not based on plural funding, will probably not succeed?

Mr. Waldegrave

I agree with my hon. Friend. The initiative has got off to a good start with £400,000 coming from the private sector before any appeal has been launched, which bodes well for the future. Local authorities already carry an enormous burden of work in this area. I agree that they should be seeking co-operative schemes with the private and voluntary sectors and that "UK 2000" is a good way of doing that. They are already taking advantage of the increased provision that we have made for training with the help of the Keep Britain Tidy Group.

Mrs. Clwyd

Since some demolition work may be involved in "UK 2000" projects, will the Minister look at ways of tightening up the safety laws governing demolition when asbestos dust is present in view of the Appeal Court's ruling yesterday showing loopholes in the law?

Mr. Waldegrave

I saw the reports this morning, which I think deal with matters under the health and safety at work legislation and potential defects in that. I shall discuss that matter with my hon. Friend who is responsible for those matters.

Mr. Chapman

As one of the objectives of "UK 2000" is to green our cities, will my hon. Friend confirm that with imagination physical improvement can be brought about, particularly in our inner city areas, at relatively little cost? Will he encourage competitions to find schemes which will contribute to that objective and cost relatively little?

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend is right. The combination of private sector money, local authority skills and volunteers can often do a great deal with little funding. My hon. Friend also makes the point that "UK 2000" goes much wider than a litter initiative. It is the first time that the seven principal voluntary organisations, ranging from Friends of the Earth to the Civic Trust, have sat down together to try to work out a strategy to cover schemes such as the rehabilitation of Tynemouth station.

Mr. Straw

Does the Minister recognise that much of the untidiness in Britain has been caused directly by other Government policies? Why have the Government cut 10 per cent. in real terms from the grant for refuse collection? I see the Secretary of State smiling. Perhaps he will explain why in April this year, as Secretary of State for Transport, he issued a circular saying that all litter bins should be removed from all trunk road laybys. How did that policy contribute to tidying up Britain?

Mr. Waldegrave

It is well known that the existence of those litter bins often turned out to be a source of fly tipping and dumping, making the situation worse. The truth, as the hon. Gentleman should know, because, unhappily for him, he has been stuck in his present job for a long time—

Dr. Cunningham

Listen to who is talking.

Mr. Waldegrave

I shall be delighted to remain in my job for several years more. However, the hon. Gentleman knows that if the worst and most inefficient local authorities came up just to the average on litter collection, more than that 10 per cent. could be saved.