HL Deb 27 October 1988 vol 500 cc1708-9

3.30 p.m.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will consider using their powers under Sections 97 and 22 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 to ensure the cleaning of the streets in the London Borough of Brent.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, while the problems in Brent arise in part from the council's mismanagement, I understand that the immediate difficulties are due to industrial action by its employees. I also understand that the council intends to continue to comply with its statutory duties once the dispute is settled. It would not, in the circumstances, be appropriate to use default powers.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware that Brent's difficulties are by no means confined to the immediate problems? Is he aware that there have been complaints on the subject of street cleaning for nearly two years? Will the Minister tell us why he regards the council's present assurances as more credible than any others it has yet given? Will he further undertake to keep the matter under review?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, of course we shall keep the matter under review because it is very serious if streets are not cleaned. However, surely the answer is for the local people, the residents, to vote out those councillors and in the meanwhile put pressure on them.

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, is my noble friend the Minister aware that the results of the by-election in Brent last week showed what most people think of the council's policy on rubbish and also that most people think that many of the council's other policies are rubbish?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I think that the residents of Brent, in that ward in particular, showed clearly what they thought of the council's policies. I am happy to note that the Labour Party managed to pip the Greens for third place and registered 3.8 per cent. of the vote, while the Conservatives had 83.5 per cent. of the vote. It is clear that what the people want is proper local services provided cost-efficiently by local government—not NUPE government.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, in his reply to the noble Earl the Minister said that the Government were not going to exercise their default powers. I hold no particular brief for the council of the London Borough of Brent but if the Minister will not intervene, should he not refrain from criticising individual councils in this way and accusing them of mismanagement? In other words, should he not put up or shut up?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, no, we know exactly what the London Borough of Brent has done from the way in which the poor suffering ratepayers have had to put up with substantial rises. There are default powers under Section 97 of the Control of Pollution Act. If the situation becomes serious then the Government will probably have to take action. However, we do not want to interfere with the local authority. It has said that it will bring the matter under control and we hope that it will do so quickly.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, does the Minister agree that as the community charge system comes into place the people of Brent may make their presence felt and demand a service at least comparable to that of the people of Wandsworth?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, one of the great advantages of the community charge will be that pressure will be put on councillors in a far more effective way than at the moment.