§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government when they intend to implement the National Farmers' Union's recommendations for increasing the penalties for offences under the straw and stubble burning by-laws.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)
My Lords, we shall bring forward an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, which is at present in another place, which will increase the maximum fine for such offences to £500.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for that reply, which certainly indicates a step in the right direction. If the proposed £500 maximum fine proves this year to be inadequate as a deterrent, will the Government undertake, before the 1983 harvest, to implement the higher penalties recommended in such a public-spirited fashion by the NFU, bearing in mind that irresponsible stubble burning causes not only acute distress to sufferers from bronchial complaints but can also be a cause of serious road traffic accidents?
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, the maximum of £500 should be seen in the context of the fact that £1,000 is, generally speaking, the maximum fine that magistrates can exact for any offence, and therefore the maximum must be seen in relation to that and not destroy the deterrent effect of other penalties. As to a greater deterrent, I know that the National Farmers' Union has considered a three-year ban on straw burning rather in the manner of the loss of a licence. That would be given further consideration, not least by my noble friend Lord Ferrers, if circumstances showed that that was necessary; but that is by no means certain.