HC Deb 24 January 1990 vol 165 cc877-8
4. Mr. Ashton

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to protect the environment from the effects of paint spray cans.

The Minister for the Environment and Countryside (Mr. David Trippier)

Damage to property by graffiti—whether caused by spray paint or otherwise—is already an offence under the Criminal Damage Act 1971, attracting a possible maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment. However, the scourge of graffiti will be removed permanently only when it is brought home to those responsible that their activities are unacceptable. The role of parents and schools in this educative process is clearly of the utmost importance.

Mr. Ashton

The Minister is blaming everyone else. What does he intend to do to prevent the walls in practically every city in Britain being covered by disgusting graffiti? The Minister said nothing about that. First, why does he not introduce a simple law that would prevent paint spray cans being sold to people under 18? Secondly, why does he not introduce a law that would oblige people buying paint spray cans to give their name and address to the shop? The police could then easily trace them when graffiti appeared on walls in the neighbourhood. Simple measures such as that would deter children—it is children, not adults—from doing this. The way to deter them is not by Acts of Parliament.

Mr. Trippier

I share the hon. Gentleman's views about what is clearly a disgusting habit, but he is being uncharacteristically unfair when he says that we are hot doing anything about it. I have heard some of his suggestions before. I do not believe that they would be all that effective. They would be extremely difficult to enforce, particularly the taking of names and addresses. That would place an unduly onerous burden on shopkeepers. Many thousands of paint spray cans are sold for legitimate use every year. It is doubtful whether offenders could be tracked down. The House should acknowledge that the Department of the Environment is spending a sizeable amount of money, through its estate action programme, on helping to combat graffiti on rundown council estates. Under the urban programme, we are spending more than £500,000 on anti-graffiti and anti-vandalism projects.

Mr. Summerson

Will my hon. Friend consider using his good offices to persuade the manufacturers of paint spray cans to institute a recycling system? That would be much better than the Romanian idea put across by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton).

Mr. Trippier

I am happy to confirm that we are approaching those companies.

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