HC Deb 22 February 1989 vol 147 cc992-4
12. Mr. Harry Greenway

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has any proposals to seek to improve standards of litter removal, street cleaning, refuse collection, the control of dog mess and the extermination of rats and other rodents; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

These are local authority responsibilities. They have the necessary powers, and it is for them to ensure that proper provisions are made to meet local needs.

Mr. Greenway

Does my hon. Friend agree that uncleared dog mess, uncleansed streets and uncollected refuse are bound to lead to a serious deterioration in the environment, and to the breeding of rodents? Will she also bear in mind that rats reproduce from two to 800—sometimes more—in a year? Is she aware that the people of Ealing, including my constituents, suffered the effects of no cleansing of any kind for two weeks, while the Labour-controlled Ealing council has increased the rates by 35 per cent. and intends to reduce street cleansing? Will the Government force Ealing council to act on this matter?

Mrs. Bottomley

The Government are well aware of the predicament faced by the ratepayers of my hon. Friend's constituency where, even when there has been an £8 million increase in Government grant, they have to face enormous rate increases. I am sure that my hon. Friend's constituents would be much happier if Ealing council spent more time employing rat-catchers than setting up inquiries into the possible deprivation of Irish women in Ealing.

Mr. Bidwell

Can the Minister envisage a time when the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) is likely to praise the Labour administration in Ealing? Is she aware that only recently, the Ealing authority won the London award for the cleanliness of its streets? Is she questioning the method of assessing these matters in the London area?

Mrs. Bottomley

We hope that all local authorities will give proper care and attention to environmental health, cleansing their streets, dealing with litter and enforcing proper rodent control.

Mr. Churchill

Will my hon. Friend get together with her hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic to do something about the appalling amount of litter on motorways? Where does responsibility lie for cleaning up motorways? Does it rest entirely with local authorities? If not, will my hon. Friend ensure that more is done on that front?

Mrs. Bottomley

I think that the responsibility rests with my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic. We are committed to improving the cleanliness of our surroundings. We are further increasing the funding of the Tidy Britain Group which is investigating a number of projects and analysing the most effective way of cleaning up various areas—including transport areas—so that we can learn the lessons which I shall then draw forcefully to the attention of my close and hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic.

Mr. Hardy

Will the Minister confirm the suspicion that the question of her hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) raised, which is that there has been an enormous increase in rodent infestation during the past 10 years? Does the hon. Lady consider that the Government-sponsored initiative UK 2000 has had the desired or desirable impact? Does not the experience of that initiative lead her to accept that local authorities should be supported, encouraged and assisted to achieve the cleaner Britain that market forces alone cannot achieve?

Mrs. Bottomley

Local authorities are receiving much more money this year. Their expenditure has risen to more than £28 billion, and they are receiving an extra £1.1 billion from the Government.

The hon. Gentleman misunderstands the role of UK 2000, which is involved in various environmental projects. The group entrusted to deal with litter and promote cleanliness is the Tidy Britain Group, which, we hope, will come forward with practical, realistic and effective programmes. As for rodent control, there seems to be evidence that the recent warm winters have resulted in a growth in the number of rats.

Mr. Bowis

Does my hon. Friend agree that, to deal with litter-dropping we need a much greater education programme, many more receptacles of an adequate size to contain it and a greater willingness by authorities to prosecute?

Mrs. Bottomley

Tackling litter requires the active commitment and enthusiasm of many Government Departments and, above all, groups within the community. Education and the provision of litter bins both play a key part. We are investigating whether further steps should be taken on enforcement.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Jeff Rooker.

Mr. Allan Roberts

It is an outrage.

Mr. Speaker

Order. There are no fewer than eight Opposition Front Bench spokesmen. If I call Front Benchers all the time I shall never be able to call any Back Benchers.

Mr. Roberts

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is not a point of order. I reacted to the hon. Gentleman's comment of "outrage".

Mr. Roberts


Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall take it afterwards. Mr. Jeff Rooker.