§ 6.46 p.m.
LORD HAWKE rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied that the existing arrangements are adequate to cope with the problem of the dumping of large items of rubbish by the roadside. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have twice before raised this subject in your Lordships' House, but not for a number of years. I thought it was about time that I returned to the charge, for in the meantime I do not think the problem is getting any better and the incentive to dump rubbish in the countryside is all the time increasing. I quote from an American paper:
The recent rapid growth of the affluent society gets a large share of the blame for the rising tidal wave of garbage. The affluent society is a spending society, one in which making do with an old television set for as long as possible is no longer fashionable".
However, if one wants to be unfashionable and keep something working for a long time one is up against what the general public believes to be a form of built-in obsolescence which appears to be a feature of so many of the products of modern industry.
§ The combination of an increasingly affluent society and early obsolescence is building up enormous problems for those responsible for getting rid of Britain's discarded rubbish. They may be able to cope with the ordinary day-to-day refuse collections—in fact if they could not do so there would be a serious health problem in the country—but in the field of consumer durables, the large empty containers, et cetera, present problems which it is often much easier to overcome by dumping on a dark night than by going through the official channels. It is not possible to quantify the problem with any certainty, but these figures may be illuminating, or indeed in this particular respect may be rather ominous. There are about 14 million vehicle licences running in this country; about 15 million television licences; refrigerating and washing machines are each sold to the extent of about 600,000 a year; and cookers to the extent of over a million a year. Every one of those items will eventually have to be disposed of. Of course, the old "banger" is the thing that always comes first to mind. There 94 will soon be something like a million a year of these to get rid of as the higher output of the 'fifties begins to pack up.
In Circular 8/65 of February 11, 1965, the Ministry wrote to all the local authorities, full of wise words and helpful platitudes; and I read one section, Section 11(3), from that circular:
Section 74 of the Public Health Act 1936 empowers local authorities to make a charge if they think fit for accepting a motor car for disposal, but private owners will be most likely to make use of the disposal arrangements if the service to them is free. Old cars are usually abandoned by people who are no longer able or willing to incur any further expense on them, and even a nominal charge may prove to be a deterrent. If cars are accepted at the Council's depots or yards, more people are likely to bring them along if the depots can be kept open outside normal working hours, e.g. at fixed times and on Saturday afternoons and Sundays.
Those are words of unexceptionable wisdom and one wonders how many local authorities have followed this advice. But, of course, the old car is only a fraction of the problem. There are parts of cars, there are old oil drums, tins, tyres and various motor trade relics. Then there are the household discards—beds, bedding, bicycles, the remains of home decorating, wallpaper scrapings, paint tins and so on. Then there are appliances such as cookers, washing machines, refrigerators, television sets, wireless sets and the like. There is a rising tide of these things, reflecting increased sales in the last dozen years, and built-in obsolescence.
§ Then one finds stuff which appears to come from builders' operations—broken basins, lavatory pans, paint tins. Then there is the smaller stuff which somehow manages to escape the dust cart: waste paper, food tins and—horror upon horror!—one of my noble friends has told me, as a brewer, that there is a rising tide of non-returnable beer bottles Which is shortly about to burst upon us. In this context one has to remember that there are increasing numbers of people who, even if they had the space to have a bonfire, are not allowed to do so by the laws of this country.
§ When I have raised these matters in the past I was well aware that the arrangements for collection of what might be termed "abnormal rubbish" left much to be desired. First of all, the private householder either had to make 95 arrangements for a special collection, which might take a long time to come about, or else had to get written permission to take his rubbish to a council tip and probably pay a fee, and go there during working hours when he himself was working. That is all rather frustrating. If one was a trader one had to pay twice for the stuff to be removed: first in the rates, and secondly a special fee for taking away trade rubbish. I hope the noble Baroness who is to reply will tell us what is being done at the moment, though one must remember that her reports will sometimes be based on what people think they are doing rather than on what other people think is actually being done.
What do we know about what is being done? One's knowledge is always confined to small areas, and I do not think the situation is any different from what it was four or five years ago. I note from the Press that at the end of 1965 the Westminster City Council was offering to remove cars for £2. The previous February they should have received a circular from the Ministry suggesting that cars should be taken away free. I wonder what they are doing to-day. In the Financial Times of October 16, 1967, Mr. Wellings, the Managing Director of the George Cohen 600 Group, wrote:
Within a matter of months the South of England will no longer have a scrap car problem. Instead of being a nuisance, abandoned cars will become highly desirable sources of top quality steel scrap.
He was writing of a plant at Willesden to deal with up to 400,000 cars a year—a very large figure. The problem is, do they all get to Willesden? If not, why not? From my observations I think Mr. Wellings may have been a little optimistic.
§ However, cars are only a part of the problem. All in all, the temptation to go out on a dark night and dump is considerable, and so far as I know it is rare for anyone to be caught. Perhaps the noble Baroness will have some information on this subject. There must be tens of thousands of "dumpers" during the course of a month, and I wonder how many of them are caught. The local authorities have their difficulties. They are short of vehicles, they are short of staff, they are short of tipping space. But 96 the whole system of finance tends to discourage the proper tackling of the problem. Most of the rubbish obviously originates where most of the people live—that is, in the urban areas—and if the urban local authorities do not provide an acceptable alternative to dumping at the source of the stuff then dumping will take place, and it will take place largely in the rural areas. Thus the poorer rural local authorities are expected to clear up the mess left on them through the shortcomings of the richer urban authorities. In the circumstances, the urban local authorities may say, "Why should we spend money? Provided the stuff is dumped outside our boundaries, we have no further interest in it".
§ What about America? I summarise from an American paper of July, 1966, and another article written in that same year. There were then 40 to 50 million automobiles on the nation's scrap heaps. Twenty-five thousand a year were being left in New York streets alone. There were special sites to which the public were invited to bring their scrap cars, but the response was poor, and the city had to remove them at a cost of $4.95 each. But there was no guarantee that those cars could be turned into scrap, as it was becoming increasingly uneconomic to do so. The question of the economic value of scrap is a fluctuating one: sometimes scrap is highly economic while at other times nobody wants it. The Ford company was arranging for two Luria plants at Dearborn at $350,000 each, to provide pure steel scrap. I wonder whether they were a success. General Motors company was making a study of the problem. American Motors gave $1,000 a year to the person who made the most significant contribution to the problem. I do not know what the British automobile industry is doing in that respect. New York was thinking of sinking the cars at sea to provide cosy corners for fish.
§ When one comes to garbage in general, which of course includes the subject of this debate but goes rather beyond it, the problem is severe on the other side of the Atlantic. Chicago estimated that its land-fill area will be exhausted within two or three years. New York's incinerators put 17,000 tons of soot into the air every year and had to be closed down at times because of the dirt it 97 caused. Belgium has doubled its production of waste in ten years. Tokyo has trebled it in ten years, and Philadelphia and Chicago are both considering a plan to rail rubbish up to 250 miles to fill in old mines and quarries. America is undoubtedly the society of "Buy and scrap". But everything that the Americans do to-day tends to find its way across the Atlantic, sometimes immediately, sometimes some years later, so we must be prepared; and are we prepared?
§ I summarise from an article in the Sunday Telegraph of November 3, 1968, entitled "Losing the battle against dirt". The Westminster Director of Cleansing was reported as using words to the effect that we are paying for cheeseparing in the past, and in two or three years' time people will have to wake up to the problem. The article also claims that British makers of a revolutionary rubbish disposal plant, selling for some £400,000 apiece, had export orders worth £20 million but they could not sell one in Britain. Perhaps they have since that date; the noble Baroness may know.
§ To sum up, we have as the basic problem a growing and increasingly prosperous society, owning more and more goods which appear to be becoming less and less durable. We are trying to cope with the resulting increasing volume of discard by methods which we have thought satisfactory in the past but which in fact we know perfectly well have not been satisfactory. We have reinforced this system by laws and penalties against dumping which are virtually unenforceable. Dumping is now the cheapest and easiest way to get rid of large, unwanted articles. To clean up the resulting mess must cost more than the provision of a proper collection at source. The trouble is that the cost of collection and the cost of cleaning up the countryside does not fall on the same authorities. If it did, the problem might not exist. If we want to solve the problem we must produce a system of collection which is just as cheap and convenient to the individual as dumping. We are far from being on top of the problem now, and unless we are careful it may get on top of us in the future.
§ 7.3 p.m.
My Lords, I am very glad that my noble friend Lord 98 Hawke has brought this matter to your Lordships' attention this evening. It is not for the first time: I think he had a Motion littering the Order Paper for quite a long time on this general subject. But it was far from a rubbishy Motion, because this is an important matter, and I am very glad that he has this evening reinforced what he said in the past. I am glad, too, to have the opportunity of reinforcing, in so far as I am able to do so, what he has said. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Byers, has a Motion down in about two weeks' time drawing our attention to:the increasing threats to man's environment and the quality of life.I can think of no threat more immediate than the problem of disposing of the rubbish which our modern industrialised society tends increasingly to throw up.
I should like, if I may, to quote some words from an admirable Report by that admirable organisation the Civic Trust, a Report which I am sure the officials, with their usual solicitude, have brought to the attention of the noble Baroness. In that Report it is stated:In an age of few landmarks there is one that is more familiar and less appealing than any other. This is the illegal rubbish dump. Its appearance is unmistakable. Above a treacherous deposit of broken glass and rusty corrugated iron probably partly hidden by nettles, rears a grotesque still life of empty oil drums, discarded cookers, leaky water tanks, dismembered bicycles, treadless tyres, decomposing furniture and disintegrating prams.All those are items of which my noble friend reminded us, and he reminded us of many more. But, of course, these cookers and bicycles, furniture and prams, which may have been things of beauty when new, are not a joy for ever, and certainly not when they find themselves on top of a rubbish heap in the middle of our countryside.
I confess some personal interest in this matter. I had the honour to pilot through your Lordships' House a couple of years ago the Civic Amenities Act, the brainchild of my right honourable friend Mr. Duncan Sandys, and I should like to acknowledge the help the Government extended, in the person of Lord Kennet, to the passage of that Bill. I think that on that occasion we received more than wise words and helpful platitudes from them. I know that this matter is exercising the Government's attention. 99 There was, for example, the working party on Refuse Collection which recently reported. Against that background I would remind your Lordships of the provisions of Part III of the Civic Amenities Act, in particular, since my noble friend referred a great deal to the increasing problem of disposal of our old motor cars, and the problem of general rubbish. Section 18 of that Act lays on local authorities the duty to provide rubbish dumps. Section 19 provides for increased penalties on the individuals who dump. Section 23 confers a power, but not a duty, on local authorities to remove rubbish of this nature.
I should very much like to ask the noble Baroness, avowing a certain paternal interest in this child, how the child is faring. In general, are the Government satisfied that the provisions in this respect of the Civic Amenities Act are working? More specifically, following up my noble friend's point, what about the provisions regarding disposal of motor cars? Again, how are the specific sections to which I have referred, about more general rubbish, operating? Are the Government satisfied with the working of Section 18, the provision of suitable rubbish dumps? I think that local authorities, unless they received an express extension from the Minister, had until July of last year to provide these rubbish dumps. Have they done so? Have the dumps been properly sited? Have the local authorities combined intelligently together to provide these essential rubbish dumps, as the Act provides for?
Have they brought this legislation, the Civic Amenities Act, to the attention of the people concerned, the potential dumpers? I was disquieted at what the Civic Trust Report said: that two-thirds of the local authorities concerned had done nothing to publicise the provision of rubbish dumps. Again following what my noble friend has said, may I ask how many prosecutions have been brought under Section 19, first dealing with motor cars, and then the more general part dealing with more general rubbish? What about Section 23, this power, but not mandatory duty, given to local authorities to remove the rubbish which is cluttering up our towns and countryside? 100 I have fired a number of questions at the noble Baroness, and I do not necessarily expect to receive this evening specific answers to all of them. But I should very much like to know what the Government's general thinking is about the operation of this not unuseful Act.
That brings me to my final point, and that is to ask what are the Government's views about a collection service for more bulky refuse. It is a big problem; it is a big physical problem. Again I am referring to what I have read in this report from the Civic Trust. It refers to one London borough's experience in operating a free collection service for old furniture. In one year that one London borough has collected over 4,000 tons of old furniture. I reckon, by a process of quick but no doubt faulty arithmetic, that if all the London boroughs were operating a free service of that sort they would collect in one year 120,000 tons of old furniture—the weight of the two Queen Elizabeths. So it is clear that we are dealing with a very large problem, in both physical and financial terms.
I am also worried in this respect to read that, of the 1,361 local authorities who replied to the questionnaire submitted to them by the Working Party on Refuse, nearly 80 provide no facilities at all, whether free or paid-for, for the collection of bulky domestic refuse—the sort of items that will not go into one's garbage bin.
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend one question arising from this Report? Did they by any chance say whether, if any of the 4,000 tons could have been put up for auction at Sotheby's, it would have paid for the whole cost of collection?
My Lords, I fear that at Sotheby's these items would be knocked down for a small price, even in these days of inflation and rising prices. More generally, I should very much like to ask the noble Baroness what are the Government's views on this large problem of the collection of the larger items of domestic refuse; and what are their views on what their own Working Party has said about that particular problem. It is a difficult one, not only in physical terms but also in financial terms. But 101 I should like as clear an indication as possible of the Government's thinking about this problem.
As I have said, I am glad that my noble friend Lord Hawke has again ventilated this matter, I hope not for the last time. I make no apology for my brief intervention, because I believe that this is an important question, an important matter for all those who care about the visual beauty of these still beautiful Islands. And I hope that the Government not only attach as much importance in theory as does my noble friend to this matter, but also that they are determined to do something practical about it to help both the local authorities and the individual and voluntary organisations concerned to clear up the mess which at present litters these Islands, and the mess which is still to come.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT FALMOUTH
My Lords, I should like to intervene briefly in this matter to congratulate my noble friend on once more asking and calling our minds to this Question. We have the Civic Amenities Act 1967, Clause 19 of which deals with wrongful dumping, but this seems to have done little or nothing to stop the dumping of old cars in our district. Hardly a fortnight goes by without my finding, or my head woodman reporting to me, another car dumped in some part of the woods in my neighbourhood in Kent—though I should like to say that we in Kent get the greatest help from the local rural district councils in this matter, acting, I imagine, under the Civic Amenities Act. Nevertheless, the problem is a real one to those who value the tidiness of their woods and properties, and the clearing up leads to a great waste of time for foresters and their staffs who would be much better employed in planting and maintaining plantations.
I say, as it must have been said a thousand times before, that nothing mars the beauty of the Garden of England in May more than a broken television set, an old electric cooker, the bones of a car picked clean by those vultures, the spare-part acquirers, flung to the roadside by an orchard, giving some truth to the old thought that "only man is vile." To help mitigate this nuisance I would ask the Government to try to see that local county councils and road authorities take 102 no more land than is absolutely necessary when making road improvement schemes, thus preventing the possibilities of rubbish dumps developing. Rubbish tends to gather rubbish where it has been tipped before.
I would enter a plea also for greater publicity of the facilities for disposing of old cars, perhaps through colour photographs of bad spots, and posters in the towns. I would suggest especially that they be put on view at garages and local petrol pumps. I greatly hope that the Government will do everything in their power to prevent this unnecessary defacement of the beauty of our land, and will give encouragement to all those who enjoy seeing and keeping our country trim and tidy.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, the despoliation of the countryside through this menace which my noble friend Lord Hawke has mentioned is, I think, of concern to all lovers of rural areas; but I should like to discuss this matter briefly from a rather different angle. As a Vice-President of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents I know how concerned the Society are at the dangers which particularly these dumped cars present to children if their curiosity causes them to go and tinker with them. In a spinney near where I live in Surrey, there has been for a number of weeks a car of unknown vintage, and two or three times when I have taken my children for a walk on Sunday afternoon in this particular area, my small son has shown a curiosity to go and take a look at it, Fortunately, I have so far been able to restrain him.
These are objects which have a natural curiosity particularly to small boys, and as any simple-minded scientist will know, rust can gather quite easily on these objects and children can cut themselves on the jagged ends of wings of these cars and other objects and may receive a nasty injury. This is not to set aside the dangers of an explosion which may take place. I wonder whether the noble Baroness has any figures of accidents which have been caused by this means. Obviously, I do not expect her to have figures available this evening, because I have not given her notice of this particular question, a matter for which I 103 must apologise. But there is a real danger, not only from old cars and so on, but from broken glass and other objects which litter the countryside. If people step on them, or otherwise come into contact with them, injury can be caused and our hospitals may be put under even more strain than that to which they are subject now. I think this is an important aspect of my noble friend's Question.
I should also like to ask the Government whether they are aware of the good work done by the "Keep Britain Tidy" movement. I happen to be a rather inactive representative of ROSPA on this particular organisation, and in many areas they have organised young people to go to fetes, and to other places where litter is freely scattered, and to clean up the mess. Of course, one of the main difficulties must be the shortage of labour which local authorities face. I would ask the noble Baroness again how many complaints there are from bodies—particularly in respect of main trunk roads, where litter bins are emptied so infrequently—that old picnic remains and the like litter the roadside. My Lords, I hope that, in addition to the very important points which my noble friends have raised in this short but very valuable discussion, the question of safety will also be considered by the Government.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ BARONESS SEROTA
My Lords, I must first join with other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, for raising this matter again to-day. I feel that he should make no apology for doing so, because we all appear to be agreed that this is a problem that requires continuing attention if we are to deal successfully with the bulky waste assets of modern industrial society which can so disfigure our urban and rural environment. As the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, reminded us, it gives us a welcome chance to look at the important amenities legislation dealing with this subject which came on the Statute Book only 18 months ago in the shape of the Civil Amenities Act, to which the noble Earl himself acted as a foster parent and which he successfully piloted through your Lordships' House.
Your Lordships will recall that the Act goes far beyond the specific matter 104 that we have under discussion to-night as a result of the Question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke. Parts I and II of the Act deal with the setting up of conservation areas, and the preservation and planting of trees. It is Part III of the Act which deals with the subject of the noble Lord's Question to-night. I think the trouble in the past was that there was no comprehensive code of legislation which dealt with the problem of abandoned rubbish. In the absence of such a code it resulted in the public being in something of a dilemma. It is easy for us to say that the way in which people used to leave old cars by the wayside, or dumped other articles wherever they fancied—and some, I am afraid, still do—was deplorable and irresponsible, but if there is anything at all which can be said by way of extenuation it must be fairly said that people simply did not know what else to do with their bulky, unwanted property. This dilemma has fortunately now been resolved by the 1967 Act, which imposes on each local authority—in London on the Greater London Council and elsewhere on the county boroughs and county district councils—a duty to provide places where its residents may conveniently leave, free of charge, their old vehicles and other articles which otherwise they might be tempted to abandon.
I would tell the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe —indeed I think the whole House will be interested to know this—that to date only three authorities have been temporarily excused this duty, and these postponement orders will cease on August 1, 1969. One is a borough authority, one an urban district, and another a rural district. Having thus removed any possible excuse for the irresponsible dumping of unwanted things in unauthorised places, the way was paved by this Act of Parliament for providing heavy deterrents against anyone who, despite the facilities provided by local authorities, still behaves irresponsibly, and the Act provides severe penal sanctions for those convicted of abandonment.
I have been asked whether I can give figures of prosecutions and penalties imposed. In the inquiries I made when I knew that this Question was being asked I myself naturally asked the same questions. I am afraid I cannot give a specific 105 answer to your Lordships to-night because, unfortunately, the figures have not been collected in relation to this part of the Civic Amenities Act 1967, but I can give your Lordships an undertaking that they will be available by 1970. Although it is not for me to encourage the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, to go on "nagging" I have little doubt, in view of his past record on this subject, that he will continue to press for the outcome of this particular legislation.
My Lords, may I put one point to the noble Baroness. She is giving an ideal picture, as I said she would, but in my particular area I have never heard of these wonderful rubbish dumps which are alleged to exist everywhere. I have seen no notice saying that there is a rubbish dump and I have seen no notice in the local paper. I rather think that her picture is an idealistic one and that the general public do not know about these things.
§ BARONESS SEROTA
My Lords, unless the noble Lord lives within one of the three temporarily exempted districts I have just mentioned, I will undertake personally to find out for him where his rubbish dump is.
My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Baroness, but it seems to me that it would be highly advisable that the local authorities should undertake adequate publicity, pointing out and bringing to the attention of those who live within their boundaries where the rubbish dumps are. It is a point to which I know the Civic Trust have attached great importance, and rightly so, and I was wondering whether the noble Baroness would ask the Ministry concerned—and I think it is quite possible for her to communicate without undue difficulty with the Ministry concerned—whether they would consider bringing the need for publicity to the attention of local authorities.
§ BARONESS SEROTA
My Lords, I take the noble Earl's point and I will certainly draw my right honourable friend's and my noble friend's attention to the concern that has been expressed in the House to-night about the need to make this knowledge readily available to ordinary citizens in all the areas where the provision has been made.
106 The noble Lord, Lord Hawke, spoke with particular reference—and quite naturally in view of the growing problem involved here—to the special provisions which we need to make to deal with abandoned motor vehicles. Here, again, the 1967 Act puts local authorities under a mandatory obligation to remove any motor vehicles abandoned in their area, with only one exception. This was the point which my noble friend Lord Kennet made during the Committee stage of the Bill, and I do not think there is any need for me to repeat the particular points he made then. I would remind the House that these provisions of the Bill have been in force only since July 27, 1968, and in the case of the removal of abandoned vehicles there is only one authority in the country that has been temporarily excused this duty. Noble Lords may well question why a year was allowed to elapse between the passing of the Act and the implementation of this section. It was felt, and I hope your Lordships will agree, that it was prudent to give local authorities a year of grace after the enactment of the Bill in which to prepare themselves for this and the related duties under the Act.
The noble Lord, Lord Hawke, made particular reference—and drew here on experience in America and in other parts of the world—to the introduction of car crushing and waste consuming and salvage plants. Your Lordships may be interested to know that at present there are already in operation in this country three very large pulverisation plants designed to shred within seconds a complete motor car to what I understand to be fist-sized fragments. The shredding process is followed by magnetic extraction of the valuable ferrous scrap. A worn-out motor car can, therefore, be regarded in the future as perhaps something of value rather than something that people want to dispose of quietly and secretly on a dark night. It may be that when the new process is more generally available it will largely end abandonment by removing its cause. The three plants that already exist in this country are situated in London, Waltham Cross, and St. Helens.
I was asked by the noble Earl and by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, to say whether the Government were satisfied with the present situation, and I have 107 already indicated that the particular provisions of this Act have been in force for a very short period. To sum up the Government's approach here, they are satisfied with the tripartite attack which is made on this problem of abandoned rubbish by Part III of the Bill. First, the Bill has imposed a duty on local authorities to provide places where rubbish may be deposited by the public; second, it outlaws dumping by heavy penalties; and third, it requires local authorities to remove abandoned vehicles and gives them wide powers to remove other abandoned rubbish. I am sure your Lordships will agree that arrangements in the Act, which were welcomed generally from all parts of the House, are both a great advance on the previous situation and thoroughly constructive in scope. It is early days yet to judge what will be their full effect, but so far as is known to the Government there has been nothing specific from local authorities or the public to suggest that they are not matching up to the needs. Nevertheless, noble Lords have drawn attention to certain specific points concerning them, and I will do my best tonight to answer the particular questions which have been put.
The noble Earl asked about the general attitude of the Government, and particularly the Ministry, on help and guidance to local authorities, and about the Government's views on the provision of a free service. He asked whether it is felt that sufficient progress has been made by local authorities over the whole scope of Part III of the Act since it was passed some eighteen months ago. Immediately the Act came into operation my right honourable friend issued a circular asking local authorities to begin to make provision to implement the various provisons which were made in it, and in October, 1967, that admirable body, the Civic Trust, held a one-day conference in London to discuss the implementation of the Act. My right honourable friend was present at the conference—indeed, he opened it—and it was widely attended by local authority organisations and others concerned. Appropriate regulations have been made under various sections of the Act, including the detailed procedures to be followed by local authorities when they remove and dispose of abandoned vehicles. The re- 108 port of the Working Party on Refuse Collection, to which the noble Earl referred, has been the subject of a circular by my right honourable friend commending it in broad terms to the local authorities and asking them to implement it wherever possible.
I was asked about the attitude of the Government to free collection. It is true that some progressive authorities make provision for free collection from individual householders; other authorities do not do so. But, as was pointed out at the Committee stage of the Bill, there is little doubt that any attempt by the Government to impose—if any Government were prepared to do so—on local authorities a mandatory duty to provide a free collection throughout the country would create difficulties, particularly at this time of considerable economic stringency. My right honourable friend, in circulars and in guidance to local authorities, has encouraged them in this direction. And there is little doubt that there is much greater incentive to people not to dump their large items of rubbish if they are collected by a door-to-door service. I would stress again our hope that, now that we have a system where, in all but three areas, local authorities have made provision, people will take their items of refuse to these large dumps, and so avoid incurring the penalties provided in the Act, until some such time as a fully free service is made available.
My Lords, the noble Baroness referred to the facilities which have been provided in all but three areas. What puzzles me is how the unmotorised citizen gets his rubbish, if it is hulk rubbish, to these dumps. It seems to me to be important that, in addition to the provision of dumps, there should be facilities for the collection of bulk rubbish at home, whether they be free or paid for. What also worries me is the fact that in a number of authorities no such facilities are provided. Is it the Government's view that such facilities should be provided, even if they are not provided free?
§ BARONESS SEROTA
My Lords, many authorities already provide facilities on payment. I do not have the figures with me; I will find out the latest position and let the noble Earl have them in writing. Clearly, there is a problem with elderly people who have no motor car 109 and who require a collection of this kind. It would be of great advantage to them if it could be provided on a door-to-door basis, but I will make inquiries and let the noble Earl know the result.
The noble Viscount, Lord Falmouth, raised an individual case in his own area, and I personally should welcome any individual examples of the kind he gave, so that they could be looked at by the Department in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.
Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, raised the general question of danger to children in the context of abandoned vehicles. If I were not speaking from this particular position, I might raise this matter in connection with other large items of abandoned rubbish as well. This is a serious problem and one that has caused considerable concern. Indeed, during the Committee stage of the Civic Amenities Bill several noble Lords questioned the need for the provision in the Bill requiring local authorities to wait for seven days until they remove a wreck. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who mentioned the danger of children throwing a match into a petrol tank which still contained petrol. This matter clearly presents a difficulty.
On the other hand, it was the general feeling of the Committee at that time, when dealing with that particular clause, that seven days was the minimum notice one must give to an owner before a vehicle wreck was removed from the place in which it had been abandoned. Abandoned vehicles not only cause dangers of that kind: any stationary vehicle on a public highway can be a danger, in that it can block access and impede ambulances, fire vehicles and other emergency vehicles. The noble Lord's point has been taken; the House has already discussed it, and I personally hope that local authorities will be constantly aware of it.
My Lords, I hope that I have dealt with most of the specific points which have been raised. We all join in thanking the noble Lord for raising this matter to-night; it is one of which we constantly need to remind ourselves. I hope that this short discussion will serve to remind private citizens, local authorities, and indeed the public at large, that this is a 110 matter on which we must be eternally vigilant. I hope that it will encourage local authorities to continue to improve their provision, and certainly it should be a reminder to all of us, as individual citizens, of our responsibilities in this matter.