HL Deb 27 June 1990 vol 520 cc1631-90

3.25 p.m.

Lord Reay

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Reay.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[THE EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 287A: Before Clause 83, insert the following new clause:

("Resources for litter authorities

.—(1) It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State in respect of each financial year to which this Part applies to satisfy himself that adequate resources are available to litter authorities adequately to fulfil their duties. (2) No Code shall be laid before Parliament under section 86(11) below unless the Secretary of State is satisfied in the terms specified in subsection (1) above as to the level of resources likely to be available in the financial year during which the Code will first apply.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 287A, standing in the names of my noble friend Lord McIntosh and the noble Lord, Lord Ezra.

The amendment recognises completely what the Government seek to do in the realm of making Britain tidier. We are concerned to ensure that the people who will be primarily responsible for making that happen—that is, the local authorities—will have sufficient resources to do so. That is the purpose of the amendment.

There has been considerable concern that Part IV—laudable though it is—aims to establish duties which local authorities will simply not have the money to carry out, however willing they may be to do so. The Minister knows that the revenue support grant, which is crucial and central to the ability of local authorities to do this, needs to cover the additional costs. We do not want the Minister to tell us that the whole country wishes to see Britain tidier, that the mechanisms to ensure that this happens are in place; that all one requires is the will of other people—that is, the local authorities—to find the money from their limited resources and to get on with it.

We know that the Government are keen to limit the freedom of local government to take action on a wide front. They do this by restricting the amount of support from the centre. At the same time, they load local government with a range of responsibilities. I speak from advice given to me by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and the Association of London Authorities. We are concerned because the estimates that those bodies have given are that the additional costs in this field for litter collection alone have been estimated for 1991–92 to amount to between£252 million and £336 million.

We know that this is part of an ongoing discussion between the department and local authority representatives. We seek to persuade the Government to say something that will be seen as a promise, though perhaps not a commitment, that they recognise that if local authorities have to take on these duties additional money will be forthcoming.

There is a large gap between what the local authorities receive and what they need to spend on a range of new statutory duties—for instance, environmental protection and food safety. We have just said farewell to a Bill that lays additional responsibilities on local authorities for food safety. We are all entitled to be pragmatists in this matter. We are concerned about this narrow additional sphere of extra duties. We are concerned that local authorities may not have sufficient resources to accommodate them.

The Government recognise and, to a large extent control, the costs of inflation which have to be met by local authorities. There is the question of what the Government will do in their refashioning of the poll tax legislation. Whatever the outcome, it is more than likely that some of the burden of getting the Government out of that problem will fall upon local authorities. I, like many others in the Chamber, am a local authority man. I am concerned that those involved in local authorities will be faced with an impossible task.

The Minister will be aware that I have access to information on the kind of additional duties that will fall upon local authorities. The Government quite rightly lay down the standards. We are not objecting to the standards that the Government want to achieve. There are of course a number of different grades of cleanliness which are to apply to different parts of the country. There are also different types of local authority areas. The matter will be complex. But if we want to make Britain tidy and clean, that task will have to be paid for. A code of practice will be laid down. That was the Government's chosen instrument to try to give effect to their legislation. The code of practice will lay down what local authorities should be doing in this area.

In Wolverhampton, for example, it has been estimated that the cost of street cleaning will double. But are the Government building a potential doubling of the cost of street cleaning into local authority budgets there? Private companies have estimated that there could be a threefold or even a sevenfold increase in the national cost of street cleaning. Even if there is only a twofold increase, that will be prohibitive to the poll tax payer. The Minister knows that these costs will rise as a result of a number of factors which are not under the control of local authorities. First of all, there will more than likely be a need for more frequent cleaning of our streets. There will need to be an increase in the size of the manual workforce and there are likely to be increased overtime payments. There will certainly be increased capital costs for providing necessary vehicles.

This is not a case of empire building or profligate expenditure. It is expenditure which needs to be incurred because the Government, the Opposition and the country want to see a tidier Britain. More cleaning may have to be carried out at night or on Sundays to maintain standards. That may well be a common occurrence in London but it is not so common outside London. Those are some of the costs that will have to be borne. The intention of this amendment is to ensure that those costs are fairly borne.

I hope the Government will say something about the deep seated malaise that rests in the psyche of the British people as regards litter. The Government know that we are talking here about mere palliatives. We are talking about providing money to clean up the mess. However, why do the Government not try to get to the root cause of the mess—that is, the carelessness of the British public over what they do with their litter? This is not a party matter. It is a problem and a worry for everyone in this Chamber.

Even if this legislation comes into effect, where will we be in 10 years' time? Will Britain be a greener place or will it not? Will it simply be a matter of sweeping the dirt away as fast as we can? I hope the Minister will engage his thoughts for a few moments on an effective television campaign. The Government are entitled to great credit for their campaigns to raise the awareness of the public about such matters as AIDS, drinking and driving and the wearing of seat belts. They have devoted money, time, thought and publicity to making the public more aware of the damage they are doing to their bodies and to their communities by certain practices. Why cannot the Government spend as much time and money on an educational programme to try to make our school children, our adults, our communities and our clubs more aware of tackling the problem of litter? Unless we tackle the problem now, we shall simply be providing bigger and better street cleaning forces and more and more people to clean up the mess after the event. I hope that the Minister will have something helpful to say.

Lord Ezra

I wish to support the amendment which was so vigorously moved by the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. I have been closely involved in the Tidy Britain movement over the years and I fully agree with the code of practice which the Bill proposes should be implemented. I am delighted to note that the noble Lord, Lord Parry, who is currently chairman of the Tidy Britain Group, is present. No doubt he will express his opinions on this matter.

During the fairly long period when I was chairman of that organisation we had to face up to two difficulties. First, of all, there was no strategy to deal with the problem of litter and, secondly, we did not have the resources to carry out any strategy. This Bill puts a strategy in place. That strategy has been carefully worked out, and I believe the Tidy Britain Group played a major role in it. I believe the strategy could transform the appearance of the nation if it were effectively applied. However, the worry I have, which I share with the noble Lord, Lord Graham, concerns whether there will be sufficient resources to carry out the strategy.

On Second Reading I mentioned that I supported the measures proposed in the Bill virtually entirely. However, like other Members of the Chamber, I was concerned about the adequacy of the resources available to carry out those desirable measures. That applies particularly to the question of litter. If we are to carry out this highly desirable operation effectively, involve the public in it and provide local authorities with the proper motivation and resources, this amendment is of great importance. It would not only confirm that the Government had put in place a strategy, but it would confirm that they had accepted that the necessary resources must be made available to carry out the strategy. If this amendment is not carried and the Government do not support it, one must regrettably begin to doubt how seriously they are committed to the measures being proposed in the Bill. The two go together—the actions to be taken and the means to carry them out. It is for that reason that I fully support the amendment.

Lord Parry

The Committee will be aware that the Tidy Britain Group, which was formerly known as Keep Britain Tidy, was the creation of the Women's Institute after a resolution passed during its annual conference some 25 years ago. The Women's Institute expressed concern at the fact that Britain was becoming more and more untidy. They wanted a government funded agency which was supported by the public to tackle the problem.

I am grateful to the former president of that body, the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, for the remarks he has made about the organisation. It became increasingly clear that if we were to meet the challenge of Britain's increasing untidiness, it was not enough simply to ask people to keep Britain tidy. That was manifestly not enough. Therefore we passed to an imperative stance. We now have the Tidy Britain Group. That organisation works with whatever Government are in power. The remarks that I make on behalf of the Tidy Britain Group are made in that context.

My remarks do not necessarily represent the views of all the members of that group, but I put them forward as one who has been concerned for some 14 years now with the organisation that was formerly called Keep Britain Tidy. It is absolutely essential that funding should be direct. We have addressed ourselves to that matter in association with the appropriate department and the Secretary of State both at government funding level and at the level of private industry funding. We have been seeking more and more funds in order to carry out the task of tidying up Britain.

As I indicated at an earlier stage—and I do not want to make a Second Reading speech in Committee—although we ameliorate the condition, the task is so great that the problem is almost growing behind us. Therefore the funds that we currently have available are not really relevant to the task ahead of us.

As I make this contribution this afternoon, I should like the Committee to know that we are not resting on our laurels. The organisation itself has been reorganised. It is constantly in touch with other sources of funding. We do not expect that any government, whatever its political nature, will be able to fund totally the tasks that we wish to carry out. My noble friend, Lord Ezra, was quite right to point out that the organisation has been responsible for putting forward some of the elements of the code of conduct.

The essential change is that the public in Britain now back the efforts that are being made by various organisations. Cleanliness is on the national agenda. My advice to the Government would be to back that rising tide and to show themselves at the front of the efforts that are being made. The fact that we have private sources behind us is important but it must be seen that the Government are leading the enterprise. I recommend very strongly on behalf of the Tidy Britain organisation that the amendment is considered in those terms.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Hesketh)

The amendment reflects perhaps the one point of controversy in Part IV of the Bill. No one has challenged the central idea behind it—that there is too much litter on our streets and in our public places and that something must be done about it. Nor has anyone challenged the idea that we must get both at the people who drop it—through higher and more easily enforced penalties—and at the people responsible for clearing it up, by setting out clear duties and standards of performance. The controversy arises only when we come to the question of what those improvements will cost.

As the Committee will be aware, we have been conducting over the past few months a consultation exercise on a draft of the code of practice to which local authorities and other bodies, including government departments, will have to have regard in carrying out their new duty. The draft code is novel in that, for the first time, we are proposing that cleaning standards should be judged in terms of output, how much litter there is on the street, rather than the more traditional input approach of how often the street is swept. The draft code was not dreamt up in the ivory towers of Marsham Street but in close consultation with experts drafted in on behalf of the local authority associations and the private sector. We also took the advice of the Tidy Britain Group, with its wealth of experience in this field. The result is not therefore Utopian, but it represents what we are advised is a standard already being achieved by efficient authorities who give this service the priority that it deserves.

We are currently in the process of considering the many comments that we have had from local authorities about the draft code and its resource implications. We have also now received the report of the consultants that we commissioned to look at the resource implications for a representative sample of 20 authorities. We shall be considering the implications of their report for the standards to be set in the code.

However, I can tell the Committee that the consultants estimate that the additional cost of meeting the new duty to the standards set out in the draft, in most of the authorities in the sample, falls within the range 7 per cent. to 30 per cent.—a far cry from the 400 or 500 per cent. increases being claimed by some authorities. It may well be that this discrepancy is explained in part by misunderstandings by authorities about the meaning of the draft code. It is clear, for example, that some authorities have interpreted the response times in the code—the period within which litter has to be cleared if a particular area has reached an unacceptable state—as meaning that all areas have to be swept as often as that whether or not there is litter there. We shall be looking to improve the drafting of the code in order to minimise any misunderstandings. We shall be publishing the consultants' final report shortly.

Amendment No. 287A would require my right honourable friend to satisfy himself each year that adequate resources are available to local authorities to carry out their new duties under Part IV and be similarly satisfied before laying the code of practice before Parliament for approval. My right honourable friend has made clear on a number of occasions that he will consider any resource implications of the new duties as part of the revenue support grant round. Nor are we in the business, as I hope I have made clear, of setting standards in the code of practice that are unrealistically high.

Perhaps I may turn to a matter which is not strictly part of the amendment but which was drawn to the attention of the Committee by the noble Lords, Lord Graham, Lord Ezra and Lord Parry. The Government fully understand that the Tidy Britain Group has a seminal role to play in terms of the educational aspect, which is as important as litigation, in establishing an improvement in the attitude to litter. I was extremely pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Parry, point out that not only was he interested in the Government's contribution to the Tidy Britain Group, but also in the contribution that could be made by the private sector. The Government's commitment to the Tidy Britain Group and the success that it will achieve in education remains as strong as ever.

That point is not, strictly speaking, part of the amendment but it is part of the issue as perceived by the noble Lord, Lord Graham. I therefore felt it only proper to respond. I hope that the noble Lord will consider my words rather than press his amendment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Before I reply, would the Minister care to respond to my plea that the Government treat the issue seriously at a national level and not merely leave it to local authorities? I put forward the idea in all sincerity that the Government might mount a national publicity campaign, in the same way as they have tackled their responsibilities with regard to AIDS, drunken driving, child care and community care. Would the Minister care to comment on the usefulness of that idea?

Lord Hesketh

I covered that point earlier in referring to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Parry. The Tidy Britain Group has represented the frontier for the Government in that respect. It has designated 1990 as Tidy Britain Year and in the past two years has been in receipt of some £5 million which has been spent in a variety of ways which the group has considered the best in order to achieve exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Graham proposed.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I wish I had not pressed the Minister because he has given a disappointing answer. I do not want the Government to give a grant to another body, admirable though that body is and although it is conscious of its responsibilities to do what it can with the grant. I should like to see a campaign backed by the Government similar to the campaigns which I mentioned. That would have some effect.

I listened very carefully to what the Minister had to say about the likely additional cost of implementing the duties that will flow from the code of practice. Those who advise him estimate that it is likely to cost an additional 7 to 30 per cent. However, I do not know what it is 7 per cent. to 30 per cent. of. The Minister must understand that in such matters the gearing factor also has to be taken into account. When one considers the poll tax, which is not the whole of the income that an authority has to spend, then it is clear that the gearing is likely to be three or four times as much as that.

I am asking the Government to write on the face of the Bill a guarantee that adequate resources will be available. I know that there will be an argument. The Minister tells me that there are on-going discussions. One hopes that at the end of the day there will be agreement. However, I am concerned about my colleagues and the Minister's colleagues in local government who yet again will be faced with additional duties which they want to carry out but which they will be unable to carry out because if they rob this particular Peter it will be to pay a specific Paul. Local government are fed up with having to do what they want to see done while the Government leave them with inadequate resources. I intend to press this amendment and take the opinion of the Committee.

3.50 p.m.

On question, whether the said amendment (No. 287A) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 85; Not-Contents, 134.

Addington, L. Kennet, L.
Airedale, L. Kirkhill, L.
Ardwick, L. Leatherland, L.
Banks, L. Listowel, E.
Blackstone, B. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe,
Blease, L. B.
Bottomley, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Brightman, L. Longford, E.
Broadbridge, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Carlisle, E. Molloy, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, Monkswell, L.
L. Mulley, L.
Carter, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Chorley, L. Nicol, B.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Ogmore, L.
Clinton Davis, L. Oram, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Parry, L.
Congleton, L. Peston, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Phillips, B.
Dormand of Easington, L. Porritt, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Prys-Davies, L.
Ezra, L. Richard, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Rochester, L.
Gallacher, L. Ross of Newport, L. [Teller.]
Galpern, L. Sainsbury, L.
Gibson, L. Seear, B.
Gladwyn, L. Serota, B.
Glenamara, L. Shaughnessy, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Shepherd, L.
[Teller.] Stallard, L.
Grey, E. Stedman, B.
Hampton, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Hanworth, V. Strabolgi, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Swann, L.
Hirshfield, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Hughes, L. Tordoff, L.
Hunt, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Jacques, L. Varley, L.
Jay, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Walston, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. White, B.
John-Mackie, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Aldington, L. Caccia, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Campbell of Alloway, L.
Alport, L. Campbell of Croy, L.
Ampthill, L. Carnegy of Lour, B.
Annaly, L. Carnock, L.
Arran, E. Cavendish of Furness, L.
Balfour, E. Chelmer, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Cockfield, L.
Bellwin, L. Colnbrook, L.
Beloff, L. Colville of Culross, V.
Belstead, L. Cork and Orrery, E.
Bessborough, E. Cottesloe, L.
Blake, L. Cox, B.
Blanch, L. Craigavon, V.
Blatch, B. Crathorne, L.
Blyth, L. Crawshaw, L.
Borthwick, L. Crook, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Cross, V.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Dacre of Glanton, L.
Buccleuch and Queensberry, Davidson, V.
D. De L'Isle, V.
Butterworth, L. Denham, L. [Teller.]
Effingham, E. Morris, L.
Ellenborough, L. Mountevans, L.
Elles B. Mountgarret, V.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Erroll, E. Munster, E.
Erroll of Hale, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Faithfull, B. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Ferrers, E. Nelson, E.
Foley, L. Norfolk, D.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Norrie, L,
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. O'Brien of Lothbury, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Orkney, E.
Glenarthur, L. Oxfuird, V.
Grantchester, L. Pender, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Gridley, L. Pym, L.
Grimthorpe, L. Reay, L.
Haig, E. Renton, L.
Halsbury, E. Rodney, L.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. St. Davids, V.
Havers, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Henley, L. Savile, L.
Hesketh, L. Seebohm, L.
Hives, L. Sharples, B.
Holderness, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Hood, V. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Hooper, B. Strathcarron, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L. Sudeley, L.
Joseph, L. Teviot, L.
Killearn, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Kinnoull, E. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Lauderdale, E. Tranmire, L.
Layton, L. Trefgarne, L.
Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Trumpington, B.
Long, V. [Teller.] Tryon, L.
Lovat, L. Ullswater, V.
McColl of Dulwich, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Whitelaw, V.
Margadale, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Merrivale, L. Woolton, E.
Milverton, L. Young B.

Reolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

3.58 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 287B: Before Clause 83, insert the following new clause:

("Litter duties and private contracts

.—(1) The Secretary of State shall before the laying of any Code under section 86(11) below make regulations for the purposes of—

  1. (a) enabling local authorities to re-negotiate the terms of any contracts, then current in respect of litter or waste collection and drawn up in accordance with the requirements of the Local Government Act 1988, in order to comply with the relevant terms of any Code;
  2. (b) prohibiting any revision of costs charged to local authorities by contractors under contracts to which paragraph (a) above refers, other than any costs for which adequate provision for the authority has been made by the Secretary of State; and
  3. (c) enabling local authorities to require the payment of increased penalties, at levels to be specified in the regulations, for any failure by a contractor to comply with the terms of any code.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 287B again is concerned with the resources available to local authorities to carry out the new duties which very properly will be placed on them by this part of the Bill. Let me say that at the outset. There should be no doubt in the mind of the Committee that we on these Benches support Part IV of the Bill. We seek only to make amendments to it to improve something which has a laudable objective and which from all our statements in the past it is clear that we thoroughly support.

This amendment is necessary for a specific reason which refers back to the provisions of the Local Government Act 1988 and in particular the compulsory competitive tendering provisions. Under Clause 86(11), the code of practice provides for all the requirements which will be placed on local authorities in their street cleaning activities so that they conform to the complex definitions of litter in the different circumstances which are specified.

What the code of practice seems to ignore, and what is difficult to reconcile with the 1988 Act, is that in many cases local authorities will already have entered into contracts with outside contractors to deal with street cleaning obligations. Those contracts will have been drawn up without the benefit of having seen the code of practice. They may well not comply with the code of practice. It would be hardly surprising if some local authorities were not clairvoyant and had not foreseen the details of the obligations that would be laid upon them.

In those circumstances, the local authorities have the right to renegotiate the contracts in order that the contracts comply with the code of practice. However, there is no provision in the Bill for them to meet the additional cost which will fall on them if the conditions of the contract become more onerous. We either have to stop the renegotiation—which is what the amendment proposes—or we have to cover the cost in one way of another.

My noble friend Lord Graham reminded the Committee on the last amendment that every pound of additional local authority expenditure which has not been provided for in the standard spending assessment will cost the poll tax payer £4. I am aware that the Government are reviewing the operation—although I understand not the principle—of the poll tax. One of the matters that must be in the forefront of their minds as they review the poll tax must be the strong indications that are already being made that local authorities will have to levy very much higher poll tax levels next year than this year. That is partly because of the level of non-payment. It is to a very substantial extent because local authorities are finding it very much more expensive to collect the poll tax than the Government had anticipated, and even more expensive than it was to collect the rates. It is partly because local authorities ran down their reserves in order to keep the poll tax level down. There are many other reasons.

We are concerned that the Bill will impose additional statutory obligations on local authorities which they have not had before. To avoid the catastrophic political effects of a substantial increase in the poll tax—which will undoubtedly be in Conservative authorities as much as in Labour authorities—there will be pressure on the Government to look for ways of reducing the poll tax which will not cost the Treasury too much.

There is no solution to that. If we have additional obligations and higher standards, they have to be paid for. What is quite wrong, and ought to be politically unacceptable to the Government, is for the money to come from the poll tax payer at a very high multiple of the additional cost, and for the Treasury, having imposed through the Department of the Environment the additional obligations, to pay no regard to the cost of them.

How can a contract with a private contractor list 28 different kinds of litter and many different occasions for litter? The requirement is for effective penalties on contractors for failing to comply with reasonable contract conditions. If the amendment is not acceptable to the Government in this form, I can only suggest that the code of practice should come into effect only as the existing contracts expire and can be reasonably renegotiated. That is not in the amendment. It is a fall-back position that I should like to urge on the Government if they do not feel able to accept the amendment.

At the moment I cannot avoid the conclusion that that part of the Department of the Environment which is setting up the code of practice has not been paying any attention to the other part of the Department of the Environment which is implementing the compulsory competitive tender proceedings. Until the position of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing is resolved, then it will be local authorities—and above all the poll tax payers—who will have to pay. I beg to move.

Lord Ezra

I rise to support the amendment. Starting from exactly the same position as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh—namely, the need to apply the code of practice—I agree with him that it is another matter that needs attention. A number of the contracts for litter or waste collection have already been negotiated. Quite clearly the standards have now been increased as a result of the code of practice. We should like to see these standards applied. Therefore those contracts will need to be renegotiated. If more onerous tasks are put upon the contractors, that will cost more. That has to be provided for. It seems to me that it is a thoroughly logical and desirable amendment which flows from our common interest in seeing that the code of practice on litter is effectively applied.

Lord Hesketh

Amendment No. 287B is concerned with the position of authorities who had already entered into agreements for street and other cleaning services under the terms of the competitive tendering legislation before the new duties on local authorities—and the standards set for performance—come into force.

We fully recognise that this is a matter which will have to be addressed in the arrangements for the implementation of the Bill. It is in fact rather more complicated than the amendment put down by the noble Lord suggests, in that we are dealing here with two kinds of agreement. There will indeed be a straightforward contract; but when it has been assigned to the authority's own direct service organisation, there will not be a contract as such, since an authority cannot enter into a contract with itself. However, the terms under which the work is carried out will be bound by the requirement of the Local Government Act 1988 that work assigned to a DSO under the competition legislation must be carried out in accordance with the detailed specification on the basis of which it was assigned to them.

We are giving careful consideration to what guidance should be given to authorities on the implications of the code for these contractual arrangements and statutory requirements. In some cases, any problems may as much reflect the present standard of performance of the service by the authority, given the evidence that the proposed standards are not unrealistically high.

However, we do not believe that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, provides the answer. In the first place, as I have explained, it overlooks the distinction between contracts with outside contractors and agreements with the DSO. Where contracts are concerned, it would place an arbitrary limit on the revision of charges. That must surely be a matter for free negotiation between the two parties. It would also override and make more punitive any existing penalty clauses. This again cannot be acceptable in relation to a contract freely entered into by both sides. Nor is it clear how an authority could decide authoritatively that the terms of the code had in fact been breached.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, during the passage of the Bill has been developing his concept of gearing with regard to the community charge. But Part IV of the Bill responds to what the Government believe is a perceived desire in the country. Whether or not that will be paid by the community charge payer or the taxpayer, it will be from the taxpayer at large one way or the other. It is not possible to imagine a concept whereby the community charge is the only tax which exists. If there are increased costs they will be paid for by the taxpayer.

Baroness Phillips

The Minister touched on an important point. I understand that approximately 100,000 small businesses and shops are closing because they cannot afford the imposition of the heavy property tax. I once had a business in the London Borough of Westminster and paid for waste collection through the rates. However, in addition, one had to pay for private waste collection. There was no choice; each business was told that it had to enter into a contract. Such business people will now be in a more difficult situation because they will be required to pay the higher property tax and the private contractors will want more money if more demands are imposed on them. That is a consideration which the Government do not appear to have taken on board.

Lord Stallard

The Minister said that a local authority cannot have a contract with itself and therefore it cannot make a contract with its direct service organisation. Surely that is not true. The direct service organisations are bound under law to submit estimates for the various contracts. If they succeed they are awarded a contract. Therefore they enter into a contract with their local authority and agree to pay the necessary sums. Surely the Minister is wrong in saying that a local authority has no contract with its direct services.

Lord Hesketh

Competitive tendering provides a level playing field. Technically an authority cannot have a contract with itself; it can have a level playing field in order to ensure that.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The Minister appears to have misunderstood the point made by my noble friend. Under compulsory competitive tendering a local authority must go out to tender for such of its services as are covered by the provisions of the Local Government Act 1988. Competition for that tender can be between private contractors and the direct service organisation acting as a tenderer in exactly the same way as the private contractors. If the direct service organisation wins that tender, as has happened in a significant number of cases, its contract with the local authority is exactly on a par with that which would have existed with the private contractor. Therefore, the local authority is in a position to contract with the direct service organisation and it is not required to contract with itself.

Lord Hesketh

One must be legally correct about the issue. It is rare that I come to the Dispatch Box and say that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is wrong. However, there is no contract. The tender is entirely different from the principle of legal contract. If the DSO tender is successful, the performance of the work is governed by the provisions of the Local Government Act 1988, Section 7(8). That is what the Government have said. That is not a contract; it does not exist with an outside contractor.

Baroness White

Can the Minister deal with the real situation rather than with semantics? Surely my noble friend is right. Technically it may not be a contract and rewording of the amendment may be necessary. However, whether or not it is a contract, the burden of the complaint is that an agreement has been reached on a certain basis which will be affected by the provisions of the Bill and the code of practice. The reality of the situation has not been met by the Minister.

Lord Hesketh

I understand what the noble Baroness is saying but it is not possible for any government Minister to stand at the Dispatch Box and loosely bandy around such words. The fact is that in one case a contract exists and in the other case it does not because it is covered by a separate section of the 1988 Act.

Baroness White

That answer is merely taking refuge in words. How does the Minister propose to deal with the reality of the situation which appears to present a considerable practical difficulty?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

What the Minister has said does not make sense. I do not care whether or not it is a "contract"; that is the word that the Government insist on using. If there has been a competitive tendering procedure, and if a local authority direct service organisation has won the competitive tender, that organisation is under exactly the same performance requirements as would have been an outside contractor. It has responded to exactly the same tendering documents as did the outside contractors. Therefore, the requirements of what the Minister refuses to call a "contract" are the same whoever wins the tender. The difficulty of changing those requirements to meet the codes of practice laid down in the Bill are exactly the same, whether or not they are carried out by a direct service organisation.

The Minister is simply saying that this is a modest amendment. That is true; we are seeking to make the simple point that the amendment relates only to outside contractors, as the Minister said. It is in relation only to outside contractors that we seek the remedies to protect the poll tax payers which we believe to be justified.

To take the Minister's final political point, no one has said that there is a crock of gold at the end of the rainbow which will enable the poll tax payers to be protected but not the taxpayers in general. Of course, that is not the case. We say in this amendment, as was said by my noble friend Lord Graham in respect of the previous amendment, that the cost of additional obligations placed on local authorities by the Government should be shared. It should fall not only on the poll tax payers but also on those who contribute to the unified business rate and to government grants to local authorities.

If the Minister does not see that point, during the next 18 months his Government will be riding towards the biggest political upset imaginable. The increase in the poll tax, which will happen in 1991 as a result of the intolerable operational conditions set upon it as well as the original concept, will bring down the Government if nothing else does.

4.18 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 287B) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 81; Not-Contents, 123.

Addington, L. Carmichael of Kelvingrove,
Airedale, L. L.
Ardwick, L. Carter, L.
Banks, L. Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Birk, B. Clinton Davis, L.
Blease, L. Cobbold, L.
Bottomley, L. Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Dean of Beswick, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Longford, E.
Dormand of Easington, L. McGregor of Durris, L.
Ennals, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Ezra, L. Molloy, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Murray, of Epping Forest, L.
Gallacher, L. [Teller.] Nicol, B.
Galpern, L. Ogmore, L.
Gladwyn, L. Oram, L.
Glenamara, L. Parry, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Perry of Walton, L.
[Teller] Peston, L.
Grey, E Phillips, B.
Hampton, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Hanworth, V. Richard, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Rochester, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Ross of Newport, L.
Hirshfield, L. Sainsbury, L.
Hooson L. Seear, B.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Serota, B.
Howie of Troon, L. Shepherd, L.
Hughes, L. Stallard, L.
Hunt, L. Stedman, B.
Jay, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Jeger, B. Strabolgi, L.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Tonypandy, V.
John-Mackie, L. Tordoff, L.
Kennet, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Kilmarnock, L. Walston, L.
Kirkhill, L. White, B.
Leatherland, L. Wigoder, L.
Listowe, E. Williams of Elvel, L.
Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Aldington, L. Elles, B.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Elliot of Harwood, B.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Erne, E.
Alport, L. Erroll of Hale, L.
Ampthill, L. Faithfull, B.
Annaly, L. Fanshawe of Richmond, L.
Arran, E. Ferrers, E.
Balfour, E. Flather, B.
Barber, L. Foley, L.
Bellwin, L. Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Beloff, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Belstead, L. Gainford, L.
Bessborough, E. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Blake, L. Gisborough, L.
Blatch, B. Glenarthur, L.
Blyth, L. Grimthorpe, L.
Borthwick, L. Haig, E.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Hardinge of Penshurst, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Bridgeman, V. Havers, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Henley, L.
Buccleuch and Queensberry, Hesketh, L.
D. Hives, L.
Butterworth, L. Holderness, L.
Caccia, L. Hood, V.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Hooper, B.
Campbell of Croy, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Carnock, L. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Joseph, L.
Chelmer, L. Killearn, L.
Cockfield, L. Kinnoull, F.
Colnbrook, L. Lauderdale, E.
Cork and Orrery, E. Layton, L.
Cottesloe, L. Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, E.
Craigavon, V. Long, V.
Crathorne, L. McColl of Dulwich, L.
Crawshaw, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Cross, V. Macleod of Borve, B.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Margadale, L.
Dacre of Glanton, L. Merrivale, L.
Davidson, V. Milverton, L.
Denham, L. Mountevans, L.
Ellenborough, L. Mountgarret, V.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Napier and Ettrick, L. Strange, B.
Nelson, E. Strathmore and Kinghorne,
Norfolk, D. E.[Teller.]
Norrie, L. Sudeley, L.
Orkney, E. Teviot, L.
Oxfuird, V. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Pender, L. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L. Tranmire, L.
Porritt, L. Trumpington, B.
Reay, L. Tryon, L.
Rodney, L. Ullswater, V. [Teller.]
St. Aldwyn, E. Wade of Chorlton, L.
St. Davids, V. Whitelaw, V.
St. John of Fawsley, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly. Woolton, E.
Savile, L. Young B.
Selborne, E.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.26 P.m.

Clause 83 [Preliminary]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 287C: Page 89, line 3, after ("is") insert ("(a)").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 287D.

In the Bill as drafted the definition of "relevant land" for the principal litter authority—and we must get right the definitions at the very beginning—does not include land held by private individuals which is visible from a public place or from other relevant land of the local authority as defined by Clause 83(4).

The practical experience of environmental health officers and those in the street-cleaning departments who have to deal with the problems of litter literally on the ground is that the areas from where they are authorised to collect litter are severely circumscribed. At present it is not possible and will not be possible unless the Bill is amended for litter to be collected which has been dumped, for example, in a front garden or on part of a private property next to the pavement or street, which will be just as offensive to the public at large as if it were dropped on the other side of the fence on the pavement. We are not saying that the principal litter authorities should have access to all private land. We are saying that that private land which is visible from public land should be covered by the provisions of the litter legislation in Part IV.

Indeed, there would be a second advantage; namely, provided the power was used with discretion, it would be possible to deal with those people—and there are far too many of them—who use their front gardens or yards as places in which to deposit litter. Old prams, refrigerators, rolls of lino and carpet and parts from motorbikes or whatever are left which are extremely offensive to neighbours and passers-by. The legislation should cover equally that situation as well as public land.

We fail to see why there should be a distinction in Part IV between public land and that private land which is visible from public land. Litter on such land is an offence to the public eye and should be treated in the same way. I beg to move.

Lord Ross of Newport

This is not just a problem in urban areas; it also exists in rural areas. As I believe someone quite rightly said during the Second Reading debate, farmers are also guilty of littering the countryside and their own land, leaving fertiliser bags and feed bags blowing all over the place. Such matters would be covered by the amendment and I support it.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Reay

Amendments Nos. 287C and 287D would extend the definition of, relevant land of a principal litter authority", to include private land, any part of which is visible from a public place, or land under the direct control of the authority.

That would have two effects. First, it would make it an offence to deposit litter on private land visible from local authority land or from any other public place. In so far as it is aimed at the litterer who thinks that out of sight is out of mind and throws litter from a public place onto private land, the amendment is unnecessary as it is already an offence to deposit litter in, into or from any place in the open air to which this clause applies. Therefore, anyone throwing litter from a road (or car upon it) or any other public place onto adjacent private land, be it a field, garden or paved area, would be guilty of the offence. The amendments would, however, also make it an offence to drop litter anywhere visible from a public place. The Committee should consider how widely that might range—in some cases for dozens of miles, covering vast tracts of privately owned land. It would be entirely unjustified to extend the offence so widely, not least because it would be totally unenforceable.

The second effect of the amendments would be to place the responsibility for keeping those areas of private land free of litter and refuse onto the local authorities. Quite apart from the resource implications of extending the duty on authorities so widely, we surely cannot have local authorities going onto private land—somebody's private garden, for instance—as and when they choose to clean up any litter that may be there. That would constitute a blatant violation of a person's property rights.

The amendment also seems to go too far in another respect. It would make it an offence to drop litter on private land, any part of which is visible from a public place. But how would you determine what the "whole" is? Would it be the rest of the field, the rest of the farm, the rest of the forest or the rest of the land holding? There is no point in bringing in the rest if that is not visible from a public place.

The amendments, as well as being sweeping, are unnecessary in striking at the heart of the problem. The most sensitive areas of privately owned land will already be capable of designation by local authorities as litter control areas. The offence will in such circumstances apply to those areas and the occupiers will be under the duty to keep them litter-free. I therefore hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Parry

The Minister must accept that his defence against the amendment somewhat weakens his statement of intent in our earlier debates. A great deal of litter is thrown from private property on to private property and in the public view. It is easy to identify who the propagators are.

We in Wales have observed the principle at least since the creation of the port authority at Milford Haven which used to be known very aptly as the Milford Haven Conservancy Authority. It introduced simple legislation under which, when despoliation had taken place following an accident or incident which caused the fouling of the estuary, the polluter was identified. The individual polluter paid if he was identified as an individual. If that was not the case, all of those in the industry who might have been responsible were charged. Legislation is therefore already on the statute book giving authorities exactly the right kind of power. It is not an offence against the individual citizen; it is a defence of the individual citizen's environment. The Minister falls below the level of the intention of his Bill when he makes the defence that he has made against the amendment.

Baroness Phillips

Perhaps I may give another example. It may be possible to insert an amendment at a later stage of the Bill to apply the provision quite narrowly to the urban environment. I live on a small, owner-occupied, rather refined estate. Latterly, there has been an incursion of people who buy the properties simply to make money from them by letting them for short periods. The people who use the houses leave the front gardens full of appalling rubbish. So far as I know, there is no law under which we can deal with that problem. If one considers the beautiful estates such as the one in which the Prime Minister is interested and those in Hampstead, one sees that they have security personnel to look after such matters. The rubbish is offensive to the neighbours and there must be some way to deal with it. If the Minister can tell us that there is some law under which the problem can be dealt with, we shall not press the amendment.

Lord Reay

There is a power under the Town and Country Planning Act to enable a local authority to require an owner to clean up his land and, if he is in default, to go in and do the necessary work itself. If it does so, it can recover its costs from the owner. That covers the case mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, involving the person who put his rubbish in his front garden.

Lord Parry

Perhaps I may ask the Minister and the Committee to bear with me for a moment while I give another personal example. I know of a private property which is a public house—if that is not a contradiction in terms—which keeps its immediate environment beautiful, but throws much of its rubbish on to British Rail's privately owned property in a public place. I could take a picture to show that. Everyone would know who had thrown out the mattresses and it would be easy to say that that person was fouling someone's private land from his own private land. Surely it is logical that we should tie the knot here and make it impossible for that person to do that.

Lord Reay

There will be designated litter control areas which may deal with some of those problems.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I appreciate that this is an area in which the definition of "relevant land" is extremely critical. It is certainly not our intention in the amendment to curtail the rights of enjoyment of one's own property. The difficulty is when those rights of enjoyment of one's own property are excessively abused to the deteriment of the environment as a whole. The example of my noble friend Lord Parry is a good one.

It is not good enough for the Minister to say in reply that there are provisions under the Town and Country Planning Act to require occupiers to clean up their land. That has been the case for many years. The reason for the legislation and the reason why Part IV is in the Bill is that none of the legislation has worked. That is why we are here. We seek to produce more effective provisions and powers for those who are responsible for cleaning up the environment and cleaning up litter. We seek more effective penalties to make those who create litter suffer for what they do.

I have no doubt that the Minister has inadvertently misrepresented the amendment when he says that it covers all land visible from local authority land. It does not. By referring to "paragraph (a) above", it refers only to that local authority land to which the public have access and which in those circumstances is equivalent to public land. It was not the intention to extend it any more than that.

However, regardless of any concerns that the Minister may have for private rights, if I take a wrapper off my ice-cream and throw it on to the pavement, the provisions of Part IV of the Bill apply. If I throw it over a fence into someone's front garden, the provisions of the Bill do not apply, I cannot be caught, I cannot be served with a fixed penalty notice and there is nothing that the litter control authorities can do to stop me. That is the defect in the Bill. Although I shall not press the amendment as I want to consider carefully what was said about its wording, it is clear that the Government's provisions are not satisfactory.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

Perhaps I may intervene before the noble Lord withdraws his amendment. I have listened to the debate with some interest. In the house where I used to live we were exactly two chicken and chips away from a Kentucky Fried Chicken shop. When customers finished their two chicken and chips they had an empty box and I had to pick that out of my hedge. It is extraordinary how regular are the habits of the customers of the Kentucky Fried Chicken shop.

I complained to the shop, but of course it had nothing to do with that company. My house was 300 or 400 yards from the shop. I asked the shop to put up notices, which it did. I mentioned the matter to the police but I was told that nothing could be done as private property was involved. Even if you see someone throw away litter and are abusive to them, they are only abusive back.

I hope that my noble friends on the Front Bench, while not going nearly as far as the amendment suggests—my noble friend Lord Reay made a number of valid points on that—will accept that there is an argument for action which should be considered. Somehow the words "adjacent to" could be brought in. There are a number of phrases in property legislation which might cover the offence and resolve the problem.

Lord Parry

Perhaps the Committee will allow me to say that the company to which the noble Lord refers—Kentucky Fried Chicken—realising that its products are thrown away by people who do not care for a tidy Britain, has helped the Tidy Britain Group with a substantial grant.

Lord Reay

What my noble friend said is very interesting. We will have to think about these matters and see how the provisions in the Bill work. However, to take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, it will be an offence to throw litter from a road, a car on it, or any other public place, on to adjacent private land.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

That is only part of the answer. I do not deny that it is an offence; but the problem is how it is to be cleaned up. That is what interests the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and the rest of us who suffer from the same problem.

I wonder whether I am right in thinking that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, was referring to the time he lived in Hurst Avenue in Highgate. I live further along Hurst Avenue and therefore further away from the Kentucky Fried Chicken shop, so I do not have the same problem. I am delighted by this display of Hurst Avenue solidarity. I accept that the amendment, as drafted, is not satisfactory but the clean-up provisions will need to be improved if the Bill is to be effective. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 287D not moved.]

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 287DA: Page 90, line 15, after ("necessary") insert ("or expedient").

The noble Lord said: This is a technical amendment giving the Secretary of State latitude to make sensible decisions about whether the litter clearing and cleaning duty for a relevant highway or relevant road should be transferred to the highway authority. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

This may be described as a technical amendment but "necessary or expedient" is, after all, extending the power of the Secretary of State to be satisfied that it is necessary to transfer the duty to prevent or minimise interference with the passage of traffic. I realise that the phrase "necessary or expedient" has a long history in legislation but it would be useful to have examples of what the Minister means in practice. On what occasions would it be expedient but not necessary? What provision is proposed to give adequate notice to both authorities that the transfer is to take place?

Lord Hesketh

It will enable transfer orders to be made in cases where it appears to the Secretary of State to be expedient as well as in those where he considers it to be necessary. Circumstances where the making of an order would be expedient though perhaps, it could be argued, not absolutely necessary might be where there is a short length of ordinary all-purpose trunk road between what is otherwise trunk road motorway. Clearly it would not be sensible for the local authority to be responsible for the short length of all-purpose road while the Secretary of State is responsible for the motorway. It is far better for a single authority to be responsible for both.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Lord has not answered my second question. Will adequate notice be given to authorities of any decision of the Secretary of State?

Lord Hesketh

The Secretary of State consults under subsection (11)(b).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

4.45 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 287E: Page 90, line 26, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I speak also to Amendments Nos. 287F and 288A. I understand that we are to speak also to Amendment No. 288, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley.

Some people care passionately about dog registration. I care passionately about dog shit in the streets. I want to see it stopped. The time has come, with Part IV in front of us, to put this matter right. We should be putting upon dog owners and animal owners generally—of course, 99 per cent. are dog owners, as the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, recognises—the responsibility for dealing with the pollution caused by their animals.

I am puzzled as to why the provisions concerning animals droppings, as they are called in the Bill, should be under the refuse provisions rather than under the litter provisions. The difference between the two is that under the refuse provisions dog owners escape the offence provisions under Clause 84. They escape any requirement to clean up the mess.

The thought that local authorities should be required to undertake the difficult task of cleaning up animal droppings, of whatever age—it is common knowledge that the droppings change in appearance and texture the longer they are on the ground—is incredible. It is not and cannot be an effective obligation on litter authorities to deal with animal droppings except on an occasional and a periodic basis; and that will not deal with the problem.

Animal droppings on our streets and pavements, in our parks and our public places are widely recognised as a danger to public health. That danger is present when the animal droppings are new. The responsibility should therefore be on animal owners, particularly dog owners, to deal with the matter immediately by the implementation of what I called the pooper-scooper law when it was introduced in New York some years ago. There was a great outcry before the law was introduced. Dog owners thought that it was a gross intrusion on their civil liberties, but once the law had been enacted there was no problem whatever. It was easy to enforce the law and ensure that people who take their dogs out for a walk take with them the necessary equipment to collect, take home and dispose of cleanly and safely the droppings that their dogs left behind.

This is a simple matter which everybody understands. It is clear from both the public health and the environmental aspects that the existing law is inadequate and that there is an alternative that will work. In these amendments we put forward the alternative that will work. I beg to move.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

I must support this amendment. I live a long way away, in Battersea. It is a very nice district, quite near the park. It is perfectly easy to train one's dog to hold until it gets to the park. Everyone trains their dogs to be clean in their houses and there is not the slightest excuse for allowing the streets to be fouled. I am happy to support the amendment.

Lord Ezra

I too support the amendment. This problem is taken seriously on the Continent, where they have gone a step further. Instead of people using pooper-scoopers there are people who go around on motorbikes known as pooper-scooters who are trained, using an instrument and a flick of the wrist, to collect the droppings. That would add further to the expenditure which Members of the Committee opposite are not prepared to allow for this purpose. There is growing concern, particularly in urban areas, for this form of pollution to be dealt with. The noble Lord's amendments are well worthy of the support of the Committee.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

Once again the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has got me in a muddle, as he did about midnight last night. I am not quite sure what amendment the noble Lord moved. It sounded as though he was moving my amendment about dogs. I interpreted the three amendments to which he spoke in a totally different way from the speech which he made about them. I thought, probably naively, that he was getting at my cows and sheep rather than at dogs. I ask the noble Lord which amendment he addressed in his remarks.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stanley. I referred to dogs because, as I said, 99 per cent. of the nuisance in public places is caused by them. I was using dogs as shorthand for animals as a whole. I do not know what the Government feel about it, but if my first amendment is agreed to I shall be perfectly content to agree to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, and to restrict the provisions of the amendments to dogs alone.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

We must get the technicalities right. In view of what the noble Lord has said, I take it that he does not want to move Amendment No. 288A which widens the scope to include my sheep and cows. I want to know which amendment we are talking about.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Strabolgi)

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, has moved Amendment No. 287E. He cannot move any other amendments at this stage. He asked the permission of the Committee, which was given, to speak to the three subsequent amendments. I am bound to call every amendment, so I shall call the subsequent ones including the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley.

Lord Parry

Since we are now clear on the procedure perhaps I may move the discussion back to living creatures and the droppings that emanate from them in public places. Anyone who has spent any time in Brunnen, Switzerland, will know that one of the delights of the early morning is to see the swans being taken from the river at the back of the town to the lake at the front of it by a swan-upper. He carries with him an appropriately shaped shovel and a watering can. His swans make their way sedately to the lake. The path is cleaned after them. In this amendment we are asking for a similar resolution even if it means a change of heart on the part of the British people.

The Earl of Balfour

As a dog owner, I must say that if my dog has an accident in town he does it very nicely in the gutter. To expect me to for ever carry a bucket and shovel is asking an awful lot of me and other dog owners. As regards the amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Stanley, another animal which is very often on the roads and which has to be considered is the horse. It may be a draught horse or a riding horse. They are used in towns. There is something to be said for restricting that.

Most farmers have to move animals from time to time and they cannot always put the animals in a cart. I know that it arises time and time again in this Chamber, but I can never support the word "shall" in place of the word "may" or the other way round. That is a mistake. There is an interesting point on refuse and it is worth considering.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

You do not have to go to New York to see the operation of the pooper-scooper law. Westminster City Council has made the necessary regulations. The notices in the Westminster parks make it perfectly clear that if your dog performs in the park and you do not clear it away, you are guilty of an offence under the regulations. It is an extension to that law which is required.

The right way to do that is as the Bill has it; namely, to give permissive power to the Government to extend the provision progressively as and when it becomes practicable. Obviously public parks and regularly frequented pavements are a starting point. I agree with those who have said that it would be very difficult to extend the measure generally and to make it mandatory.

I totally support the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Stanley and I do so for this reason. For nearly 25 years I represented Wanstead and Woodford, which is bounded on many sides by Epping Forest. As Members of the Committee will know, Epping Forest, existing under a private Act, has commoners who are entitled to raise their cattle. Epping Forest is unfenced and the cattle are free to, and do, range over the roads, streets and pavements. If one does not take sufficient precautions they roam into one's garden.

I had regular correspondence with my constituents complaining about that. My answer was that they should imitate their neighbours and put a chain across the gate. The cattle will not come in. The cattle range freely. One has to be an expert to know from the brand which commoner owns which cattle. Then one has to be able to trace the commoner and identify the herd of cattle that has gone down one's road and which is responsible for the particular deposits. Then one has to take action accordingly.

That is impracticable. My constituents were always very divided. The newcomers are against the cows. The traditional Woodford residents regard them as evidence that they are living in the country even though they used to pay their rates to the GLC. They have every sympathy; they want to keep the cows. The legislation to enable that is always supported by them. One cannot possibly extend this droppings legislation, if I may call it that, to those circumstances even though I am speaking of an urban, built-up area. The idea of the progressive introduction of pooper-scooper laws which the Bill provides for, and confining them to dogs, seems to be the right answer.

Lord Ross of Newport

There is another example and that is the New Forest where there are often pigs in the road. When the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, gets the chance to move his amendment—if he has not already done so—he will talk about that. I hope to agree with him. I would not wish to penalise farmers who drive their sheep down the road. It has to be done. It would be impossible to clean up afterwards.

However, if we are to have any influence on the Government in this discussion—and everyone agrees that something has to be done about the dog menace—I put in a plea that the first places to be tackled are kids' playgrounds. It is absolutely disgusting to take one's grandchildren into an area in a park which may or may not have been fenced off. It probably has a gate and a sandpit which is filled with dog muck. I find that appalling.

I refer also to playing fields. The Ryde Cricket Club has now left its club in the middle of Ryde and moved out to the country because every time one picked up a ball one picked up something nasty with it. People become very nasty about this subject. People walk their dogs across school playing fields when the children are not there and they believe they have an absolute right to do so. If we are to give priority let us give it to the situations I have just mentioned. If legislation is to be introduced let us first give some thought to looking after the younger generation.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I shall now speak to my amendment because it was addressed. When the noble Lord comes to move his last amendment, No. 288A, which covers farm animals, I shall be very interested to hear what he has to say after the discussion that we have just had, particularly following the remarks of my noble friend Lord Jenkin and the noble Lord, Lord Ross.

As I understand it, the Bill as drafted provides that the Secretary of State can make regulations that would affect any animal droppings. That is a point which my noble friend brought out. If the first amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is adopted the result could be extremely harsh for farm animals. I fully accept that it is inconsiderate for a farmer to allow his animals to make a road impassable because of animal droppings. The noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that situation is covered by the Road Traffic Act. If one makes the road dangerous the law can become involved.

Twenty years ago I gave up keeping any animals on my farm in Oxfordshire. I did so because when I moved my cows and calves down the road six times a year I was harassed, usually, I am sorry to say, by motorists. I used to remind them, probably not in a very good temper, that they came after the animal. It did not seem to go down very well.

Now, 20 years later, the pressure is very much greater. Therefore I feel that if we accepted the noble Lord's amendment the Secretary of State would be under great pressure from our now 99 per cent. urban population to make harsh restrictions on animal droppings, a point also made by my noble friend Lord Jenkin. I know that the problem was raised in another place. In fact the Minister there gave the impression that Clause 83(13) was designed to tackle the problem of dog manure, dog muck or whatever one cares to call it. Therefore my amendment says that. It says that if that is what the Government intend why do they not insert "dog" and leave the rest.

Viscount Mountgarret

While I have sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said I sometimes begin to wonder whether we have lost the romantic feeling of rural England. What is more attractive, I ask myself, than seeing the lowing herd being driven gracefully from field to barn and from barn through the village. Roads came about because farmers wanted to get their cattle from A to B. It seems that the needs of the motor car and the hurry people are in have taken precedence over this nostalgic, romantic attitude. The word "shall" is a little strong. Consideration could be given to instituting something like that but it might be a little heavy handed.

5 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

No doubt the noble Viscount will introduce amendments to ensure that the curfew continues to toll the knell of parting day.

It may help the Committee if I make clear my position on the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley. Perhaps I did not do so at the beginning. I agree that these provisions should be restricted to dogs. My Amendment No. 288A has the all important provision of the duty of care to clean up afterwards. If my Amendment No. 287E were agreed to I would then seek to move Amendment No. 287F. I would not move Amendment No. 288A on the ground that it would have to be taken back to provide that the duty to clean up applied only to dogs. I would seek to bring back a suitable amendment at Report stage.

Lord Hesketh

Only last weekend I was travelling down the Welsh Lane in Northamptonshire, which was an old drovers road that carried the stock from Wales to be finished on Midland pastures.

It may be simplest to respond to this group of amendments by setting out the Government's policy on the question of animal droppings and the new powers and duties under Part IV of the Bill. Many people are concerned—particularly parents of young children, as has already been pointed out in this debate—about the problem of dog fouling. Some irresponsible dog owners let their dogs foul pavements and parks at will, with no thought for the potentially serious health effects or the general impact on the local environment. Many local authorities use existing by-law-making powers—including dog bans and the so called "poop scoop" by-law—to reduce the problem. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has been looking at the scope of these anti-fouling by-laws and will shortly be announcing some changes to the present model by-laws in order to make them even more effective.

But that is only half the answer. There also needs to be some back-up power which will ensure that if, despite measures to prevent the problem in the first place, any dog mess is left in public areas it is swiftly and effectively cleared up. That is why we proposed in the consultation paper which formed the basis of the proposals in Part IV that dog mess should be included within the duty to keep land clear of litter and refuse.

When it came to drafting the present legislation, however, it seemed to us that it might provide greater flexibility if the Secretary of State were to have a power to designate any description of animal droppings as falling within the scope of the duties imposed by Part IV. I can imagine, for instance, that we might come under pressure in the future to include pigeon droppings, which can be such a menace on the pavement in urban areas, or, in the case of St. James's Park near your Lordships' House, goose droppings. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, that our present intention is only to designate dog droppings. We have no intention of including any livestock droppings as we well appreciate the problems that would be caused for the farming industry.

I can also repeat the assurances given by my honourable friend the Minister at Committee stage in another place that we will make the necessary regulations to coincide with Part IV coming into force. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, will accept that that assurance makes Amendment No. 287E unnecessary. I cannot however agree with the aim of his Amendments Nos. 287F and 288B. To include dog droppings within the definition of litter would make the owners liable to the full panoply of anti-litter penalties, including a maximum fine of £1,000, if they allowed their dog to foul—and that would be for an offence not directly committed by the human owner.

It is important to explore this point slightly further. The offence of littering requires a person to drop, deposit or leave litter. In the cases of dog and other animal droppings it is clear that the person in charge of the animal does not do the actual dropping, depositing or leaving, which is why the differential exists.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred in a way to a tide that was at a height. He also referred quite rightly in earlier debates to the historical interests of public health and the development of local government. But only 90 years ago, before the arrival of the internal combustion engine, many dire pedictions were made that the cities of this great country of ours would come to a halt entirely because of far greater quantities of droppings from the horse.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I must congratulate the Minister. To stand up with a straight face and make that statement about the difference between droppings from a dog and droppings by the individual in charge of the dog required some nerve. Is it not the case that dog droppings are enormously more offensive than a cigarette packet or a piece of wrapping paper dropped by an individual? Is it not the case that a dog in a public place is or ought to be in the charge of its owner? Is it not the case that, though a piece of litter like a cigarette packet is offensive, dog droppings are particularly offensive when they have first been dropped? The only effective remedy is the remedy under the litter laws, requiring the owner of the person in charge of the dog to clean up immediately.

The noble Earl, Lord Balfour, fears having to go around with a bucket and shovel. A plastic bag and a single sheet of paper would do the trick perfectly well in 99 per cent. of cases. The arguments put forward deal with the peripheries of the problem. They do not deal with the essence of it. We must make the litter laws include dog droppings. If we do not do that we shall leave a gaping hole in the provisions of the Bill.

I hesitate to seek the opinion of the Committee on this matter. I fear that we would take a vote on party lines—Government against Opposition. That would be a great problem and very wrong. I would not expect my noble friends to agree with me about this matter if they felt differently. It is better that I now take this away, deal with the problem that arises between the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, and my amendments, make it clear that we are not talking about farm animals but are dealing basically with the urban problem of dog shit, as I started by saying, and undertake to bring back amendments at a later stage which will do that effectively. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 287F to 288A not moved.]

Clause 83, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Ross of Newport moved Amendment 288AA: After Clause 83, insert the following new clause:

("Public education on litter

.—(1)The Secretary of State shall within six months of the date of the coming into effect of the offence under section 84 below publish proposals for the promotion of public education on the implications of litter and the desirability of the improvement of the physical environment. (2) Before making proposals under this section, the Secretary of State shall consult such organisations representative of education authorities, parents, headteachers, teachers, lecturers, students and any educational bodies as appear to him to be concerned.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with what I believe is the necessary addition of some really good public promotion to deal with the litter problem. At present frequently on our television screens we see the very effective advertising for National Power, with all the electric lights being flashed on and off, which is undoubtedly being publicly funded. Moreover, before they were privatised, we had a great deal of advertising on behalf of the various water authorities. In my view, we should try to do something similar as regards litter.

The amendment would require that the Secretary of State: within six months of the date of the coming into effect of the offence under section 84 below publish proposals for the promotion of public education on the implications of litter". The point I am trying to make is that we should show on our television screens just how filthy this nation has become. Let us indicate in that way what it costs when public conveniences are smashed up, as they frequently are, and let us show railway embankments where people have just chucked rubbish for years. Let us also show some rats which are infesting parts of our sewers and some of the dirtier parts of our cities. I think that we should also show what the effects of Weil's disease can be. There is no known cure for that disease. It is fatal if you happen to have cuts on your hand and the organism passes into your body through the blood stream. Indeed a friend of mine died in a very nasty way from this disease. That is the way to bring the matter home. We must really go to town and show people what it is costing this nation, what we are risking by being so dirty and what we can do to put the matter right.

Of course, such a campaign should be largely centred on the younger generation because they are the people of the future. It is they who will finally tell their parents to pull up their socks and be tidier in their habits. I want a real publicity campaign upon which we should not spare the money. We spend vast amounts of money when we privatise industries, so let us do something along those lines to deal with this problem. I very much hope that the Government will take this proposal on board. I beg to move.

Lord Ezra

In supporting the amendment proposed by my noble friend, I should like to remind Members of the Committee that the Tidy Britain Group has achieved a great deal in this area. I hope that, if this amendment or something similar is adopted, this group will be closely associated with any such campaign.

I agree that this whole issue should be more prominently highlighted than has been the case hitherto. After all, we are very concerned with this matter in the Bill. Moreover, this year has been termed the "Tidy Britain Year". I should have thought that when the Bill becomes enacted that would be a very good time to start a major promotion with those organisations already involved in such matters, especially the Tidy Britain Group.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I am pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, who mentioned the Tidy Britain Group. When I was Secretary of State it was called Keep Britain Tidy. However since that time it has been substantially revamped. One of the interesting aspects which came to my attention soon after I arrived at the Department of the Environment was that the group was the largest single private sector recipient of grant aid from the department. In those days—that is 1982 and 1983—it received £500,000. However, the group is now substantially larger. I rise merely to ask my noble friend on the Front Bench whether, during the course of his reply, he will remind the Committee of the amount of the grant given by the Department of the Environment to the Tidy Britain Group at present.

Perhaps I may also respond briefly to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Newport. I have a horrid feeling that the kind of television campaign which he outlined, with all the terrible pictures of rats, refuse, filth and so on, would somehow manage to convey to many people that this was all the fault of Mrs. Thatcher. I am sure that that was not his intention. However, I must point out that we see a great deal of such television coverage, although I realise that what is proposed would in fact be advertising. Nevertheless the television companies somehow manage to convey the impression that such problems are the fault of the Government.

I could only support such a campaign if it were made abundantly clear that it was aimed at the people who actually drop litter. We want people to recognise the fact that we are a very untidy nation and that we should be pulling up our socks and doing something about the problem. There is a safeguard in the amendment in that it proposes consultation with a wide range of people, but one would need to look at that aspect very carefully.

The right people to carry out such a campaign are those involved in the Tidy Britain Group. The group has a long and very honourable record. The competitions and other activities which it organises are remarkably effective. If we support that group in the most effective way possible we should be approaching the matter in the right way. However, I dislike the thought that somehow what is proposed would turn out to be a great official advertising campaign.

Lord Parry

Having worked with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, when he was Secretary of State and having been grateful for his assistance, I can tell him that, while the group now receives more money from the department than it did under his Administration, we do not receive as much as we request. Of course, that is not his fault. However, we have a close liaison and a day-to-day link with the department for which we are grateful.

I do not in any sense want to take a political stance on this issue and I hope that Members of the Committee will not do so. I hope that by our work here in this Committee and by our help with the improvements to the Bill to try to make it more effective we shall emphasise the aspects upon which we are agreed. There are at least two fundamental points in this and the following amendment which in a sense amount more to an agenda than they do to an amendment.

The really important point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Newport, concerned the education of children. It is interesting to note that the group consulted all the leading advertisers in the country looking for a graphic slogan which would help our education and bring home to the public what we wanted to achieve. I believe that it was a nine year-old child who, in a competition organised by the BBC in that excellent programme "Blue Peter", proposed the slogan, "The Drop Must Stop". We shall now see this slogan on all railway stations, because British Rail is supporting us, and it will also be seen throughout the country in connection with various organisations which also support our campaign.

There is a curious aspect about the dropping of litter. Most people are pretty good at keeping their private homes tidy; but they are not very good at keeping public space tidy. Quite noble citizens seem to think that it is perfectly all right to clean their cars in a public place and empty their ashtrays on to the floor before they drive away. It is also curious to note that we are able at primary school level to get the message across to young children that it is indefensible to foul the nest. These young children assiduously pick up the litter. We work very closely with them and we have a close liaison and dialogue with all the education authorities in the country through our various local groups. Yet somehow, at about the age of 13, when children move into the secondary schools, some of the things they have learnt so carefully at primary school level seem almost deliberately to be socially unlearnt. It is a basic problem. We all have guilt in some respects in defending our own patches and our own interests.

The proposal contained in the amendment that: The Secretary of State shall within six months of the date of the coming into effect of the offence under section 84 below publish proposals for the promotion of public education". is surely one which we can all support. As one who has taken the Whip from this side of the Chamber and who has been with the Prime Minister in a public park picking up litter in order to focus attention on the problem, I can give a categoric assurance that no publicity entered into on behalf of the Tidy Britain Group will in any sense be aimed at trying to make a political point to the detriment of any government of the day.

We need to screw our courage to the sticking place in regard to some of the legislation. Any weaknesses that emerge the Bill are the weaknesses of gripping this issue, especially perhaps as we come up to a general election. I am talking about gripping the matter in those areas which are not popular. This is not a sexy business for governments or oppositions to enter into when we are talking about political causes. There is little to be gained from the public vote by making it uncomfortable for people who allow their dogs to foul the pavements or who drop litter themselves. We are making progress in one regard. The subject is on the national agenda. It will be a part of the general election policies of both parties. Let us ensure that we grasp the opportunity and make it the best possible legislation. It is in that sense that I support the concept of the amendment.

I support the proposal that we consult: organisations representative of education authorities, parents, headteachers, teachers, lecturers, students and any educational bodies". The organisation that the Government and the Opposition recognise as being the focus for that policy is in touch with those educational bodies. It would strengthen our arm if the Act contained provisions which showed that the Government were backing us—any government.

Lord Hesketh

I have a great deal of sympathy for the intention behind Amendment No. 288AA. It would require the Secretary of State to publish proposals for promoting public education on the implications of litter and on the desirability of improving the physical environment. It would also require the Secretary of State to consult any organisation or body which may be concerned with education before making any such proposals.

To eradicate litter we must persuade the public not to drop it and to take more pride in their environment. Although, as I have said, the amendment is worthy in its desire to achieve that goal, it is, however, unnecessary. As far as education in schools is concerned, the Government give a substantial grant to the Tidy Britain Group—in answer to my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding, I can say that that amounts to nearly£5 million over the past two years—to carry out a wide range of anti-litter projects including a comprehensive programme of educational and litter awareness activities. The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, as a former President of the Tidy Britain Group, will be aware of the sterling work it does to tackle the litter problem. In particular, the group has for many years carried out research into education in association with Brighton Polytechnic. It works closely with schools and youth groups to develop a wide range of information and action packs on litter and its wider environmental implications and is keen to ensure that those follow developments in education as a whole. For example, it has now produced packs to be used as part of the national curriculum, which has an important environmental theme running throughout many of its foundation subjects.

However, as well as in schools and other educational institutions, we must look at the wider question of education of the public as a whole. Again, the Tidy Britain Group is taking the lead in that area. Its numerous anti-litter campaigns seek to persuade the public that it is a dirty and anti-social habit to drop litter. The group encourages the whole community to become involved in anti-litter promotions—from commerce and industry, through local authorities, to voluntary groups and individuals. The Tidy Britain Group is particularly anxious that local authorities play a greater part in public education and is holding a series of seminars to advise them on developing their anti-litter strategies. The advisory section of the draft Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse also reflects that point. It suggests ways in which local authorities can maximise efficiency by minimising litter. That encourages authorities to place greater emphasis on control and prevention of litter and includes sections on campaigning and education.

My experience of the Tidy Britain Group from travelling around the country is that it does a fine job. I am not sure that the department setting up some new division parked on an upper storey in Marsham Street would provide the same level of effectiveness, which is based on considerable experience and success. It is because we believe that the Tidy Britain Group is the right agency and the right concept that we resist the amendment and laud the group's activities.

Lord Ross of Newport

I have an enormous regard for the Tidy Britain Group. I have played my part in helping that group over many years. We filled a shop window in Newport High Street, with loads of rubbish to show people what we had picked up. I got my councillors out on Sundays and they were photographed tidying up the countryside. About 10 years ago with the World Wildlife Group we went 10 miles down a road with lorries and put all the litter into sacks and took it way. It is all back there again.

I do not know what the answer is. If it is to give more money to the Tidy Britain Group, I hope that the debate has some effect. We must put in more money, time and effort to get the message over. I promised the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, that I would be non-political. I believe that it is a good Bill, thank God. I give the Government credit for at last bringing in some legislation. We must make it work. I shall read what the Minister has said. I realise that asking for vast amounts of money to be spent on television is not likely to go down well in the Department of the Environment, but we must spend rather more than we are doing at present. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 288B: After Clause 83, insert the following new clause:

("Anti-litter notices on packaging

.—(1) The Secretary of State shall within three months of the coming into effect of the offence under section 84 below make regulations requiring the inclusion on packaging of specified goods a statement as to the level of fines payable for the offence of leaving litter and the desirability of the avoidance of detriment to the environment.").

The noble Lord said: The amendment is a simple one which can be introduced briefly. We have the experience, which the health education authorities seem to believe is effective, of warning labels on cigarette and tobacco packaging and advertising generally. The message that they are trying to get over is complex. First, it is required that the message should be on the authority of the Government's medical officers of health, or, in the United States, the US Surgeon-General. Secondly, the message has to make complex statements about the effect on health of tobacco, the dangers for pregnant women and so on. What we propose is much more simple. We cannot put the wording into an amendment, but we believe that the package, or something which can be dropped as litter, should say, "The fine or dropping this packet could be £X. Don't drop it". That is what we mean by saying: the level of fines payable for the offence of leaving litter and the desirability of the avoidance of detriment to the environment".

I am sorry that the amendment is phrased in such pompous terms. It is an easy thing to say. It would be effective in conveying to the public knowledge of the level of fines, which is perhaps the most important point, and contribute to public awareness of damage to the environment caused by litter, especially from packaging. I am not attacking the packaging industry. I am talking about the type of people about whom the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, talked who misuse packaging and drop it over his garden fence. I beg to move.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I should have a good deal of sympathy for the amendment were it not for the fact that I had experience as Secretary of State for Health of having to deal with the Tobacco Advisory Council over the implementation of the messages which must be included on cigarette packets and advertisements. It is a complex business, not because of the complexity of the message, which was agreed eventually between the department and the TAC, but on the question of size, how prominent it should be, the colour contrast and all other such things.

When dealing with tobacco, one is talking about only a relatively few shapes and sizes. I boggle at the thought of having to devise a scheme for the multifarious kinds of packages all the way from small paper bags, to cans, to large plastic sacks, cardboard boxes and everything else. It would be difficult to work out a system. With whom would one agree it all? When we talk about tobacco we are dealing only with one body—the TAC. There are relatively few major tobacco companies.

However admirable the intentions of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, I believe that the proposal is impractical. I recognise that it could give the Secretary of State power to specify certain items. Drinks in cans can impart quite good messages with the "Tidy Britain" symbol and other slogans. The minute we suggest regulations and statutory obligations for the limitless variety of sizes and shapes of packages, we are stepping into a morass. For that reason, much though I sympathise with the objective, I find it difficult to support the amendment.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Parry

I wish to make two points. The first is that this will not be easy. We started it and 20 years later we are grasping the nettle. I remember the arguments going round in political circles about labelling hundreds and thousands. We talked about date entry and sell-by dates for stores and that has long been accepted as practical, even though it may have added to the cost to the consumer.

Secondly, many companies are already going halfway to meet the problem. We have the shining example of the Coca-Cola company which realised that its aluminium cans created a problem. It has now brought out cans carrying all the messages for which the Tidy Britain campaign asks. I do not think that the proposal is too impractical, and we can achieve it so long as we have the will to do so.

Viscount Mountgarret

I do not entirely go along with my noble friend Lord Jenkin in thinking that there is a great deal of merit in the amendment. How far do we carry this? The amendment is designed to advise people when buying cigarettes that they should look at the packet to see that they could be fined £50 or £100 or whatever it is if they drop it. Then they have to decide whether to drop it and pay £50 or put it in their pocket and take it home. The amendment is self-defeating. The law ought to be—and I hope that it will be when the Act is passed—that basically we do not leave litter lying about. It could not matter less what the fine is for the offence. That is just to encourage people not to do it again.

The law is the law: do not leave litter lying about. We cannot have advertisements on packets saying, "Don't leave litter lying about". Those advertisements could be placed in tobacconists' shops or where goods are purchased, but let us not go that far. It is rather like taking a sledgehammer to crack a small nut.

Lord Clinton-Davis

The contributions made by the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, are unduly negative, I am not convinced that there need be regulations and laws for this. We are seeking through the amendment to probe the Government's intentions.

In my submission there is a strong case for the Government to consider some form of code of conduct or code of practice. The matter can be dealt with experimentally. It may also be seen by manufacturers as being advantageous—showing that they are on the side of good environmental practice.

It is amazing how the whole atmosphere within industry has changed. It is constantly changing, but it sometimes needs a stimulus. Perhaps an idea could be worked on to establish that this is possible. I am convinced that it is and nothing that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, said in the uncharacteristically negative posture that he adopted will convince me otherwise. Industrialists could be persuaded, encouraged and stimulated to do something along these lines. The self-regulatory approach could well be useful, but it needs help from the Government in the first place.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

The noble Lord prefaced his remarks by saying that he did not think that this was a case for regulations. That is precisely what I said. The amendment calls for the Government to make regulations.

Lord Clinton-Davis

With respect, the noble Lord went on to denigrate the idea that possibly an effective way of dealing with the matter would be by illustrating the difficulties. My approach is rather different. It would be to see whether something could be done rather than to approach the matter in the way that he did. His approach was to say effectively that nothing could be done, the practical problems were too difficult.

Lord Ezra

I wish to support the concept of promoting the use of an anti-litter warning of some kind on as much packaging as practicable. It clearly helps to get the message across. As has been pointed out, a number of manufacturers already do this.

In promoting the use of such warnings, no one would say that packaging is wrong. On the contrary, particularly in the case of food hygiene, packaging has made a big contribution to the well-being of the country. We are saying that when the contents of the package have been consumed people should be careful what they do with the package itself.

As I understand it, the amendment is of a probing nature. I hope I have got that right. If so, I go along very mach with the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, that there ought to be a concerted promotion to stimulate as many manufacturers as possible to put some anti-litter warning on their packages.

Lord Reay

I hope that we have made clear often enough that we believe that education and not compulsion provides the ultimate solution to the problem of litter. That is why the Government give a substantial grant to the Tidy Britain Group, which my noble friend has just mentioned to the Committee, to carry out its anti-litter campaigns and education programmes.

The Tidy Britain Group has long encouraged manufacturers to carry the anti-litter message on their products and many businesses already print advice about the disposal of the package, together with the Tidy Britain logo and the message to "Keep Britain Tidy". The Tidy Britain Group—as the noble Lord, Lord Parry, explained—is now working to make that practice as widespread as possible.

Amendment No. 288B would require the Secretary of State to make regulations specifying goods whose packaging must include a statement giving details of the maximum fine payable for the offence of dropping litter and the desirability of avoiding harm to the local environment. I assume that the packaging that the noble Lord has in mind might include, for example, fast food cartons, sweet papers, cigarette packets, paper bags and drink cans.

The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, referred to the amendment as something that might provide a stimulus. As my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding said, we would then enter a vast morass. There is an infinite number of different forms of packaging which we would have to regulate. I agree with him that that step should not be lightly undertaken.

As I have said, many manufacturers of these items already print "Tidy Britain" messages or other anti-litter messages on their products. Instead of introducing new statutory requirements, we prefer to support the industry in its take-up of these voluntary schemes. Consequently, I hope that the noble Lord will not press his amendment.

Lord Clinton-Davis

Before the noble Lord sits down, if he is in favour of the principle of stimulating a system of self-regulation, can he indicate how the Government will go about offering some kind of encouragement to industrial groups to do precisely that?

Lord Reay

Surely the point is that we all want to raise the consciousness of the need to dispose tidily of litter. We still have faith in voluntary efforts to this end in which the Tidy Britain Group is taking the lead and to which we give a grant. We believe that the voluntary effort should be given more of a chance.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I have obtained two overwhelming impressions from this short discussion. The first is that it seems to be assumed that what we are proposing is a radical extension of impositions on manufacturers of packaged goods. I do not believe in going in for what are sometimes quite unnecessary warnings. When I was in California earlier this year I became thoroughly fed up with the fact that every restaurant was required to display prominently a notice stating that even a glass of wine is dangerous for pregnant women or could damage the health of an unborn child. Bottles of champagne had warnings carefully plastered across their labels advising people, as a health warning, to hold the bottles away from them while they opened them as injuries had been caused to people's eyes by opening bottles of champagne with the cork facing them. That is going much too far and that kind of measure is not the intention of this amendment.

The other overwhelming impression I obtained from the discussion is that the difficulties were vastly exaggerated. All those packages nowadays have a bar code for reasons of self-interest on the part of the manufacturers. A bar code consists of a square with lines of different thicknesses. It measures about 1.5 centimetres by 1.5 centimetres. Manufacturers have been able to put bar codes on all kinds of packaging including cans, cigarette cartons, sweet wrappers and many widely different items. There would be no difficulty as regards putting a warning about fines and a request not to drop litter on packaging. The Government would only have to stipulate that the warning should be no smaller than a bar code. That would do the trick and it would not cause anyone any problems.

We never intended to pursue this amendment to a Division. However, I hope that the Government will reflect on some of the exaggerations which have been expressed in the discussion and on some of the unjustifiable fears that the noble Lord, Lord Reay, expressed in his response. We may have to return to this matter, but in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 84 [Offence of leaving litter]:

Lord Ross of Newport moved Amendment No. 289: Page 90, line 33, after ("deposits") insert ("or releases").

The noble Lord said: I have a feeling that I may be accused of being a killjoy in moving my amendment. I should say straight away that it is a probing amendment. It deals with the mass release of balloons.

I am grateful to Mr. Richard Buxton, who I believe is a solicitor in Cambridge, for drawing this matter to my attention. He may have written to other Members of the Committee. Mr. Buxton stated in a letter to me: I am sure you have many greater issues to think about on this Bill, but the balloon one is not as frivolous as it might appear. Just as balloons are often let off to symbolise something, so a debate about not allowing this would I believe help focus on the wider litter problem, including the awful extent of plastic litter at sea. As you see from the enclosures, some states in the U.S. have actually made it illegal.".

A small campaign which has taken place in Nova Scotia in Canada has also resulted in some banning of the release of balloons. Mr. Buxton thinks it is high time we should do something in this country about the matter.

I have stood on beaches and released many balloons myself, so I am as guilty in this respect as anyone else. However, a sperm whale has been killed through a balloon becoming stuck in its pyloric valve. Some four loggerhead sea turtles and other turtles have also died in this way, and no doubt many more fish in the sea have suffered similar fates. We only know about the cases reported by the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in the USA.

The release of balloons is now banned in the national parks of the USA. A document from the United States Department of the Interior points out that in a, 1988 National Beach Clean-Up, volunteers collected over 10,000 balloons in three hours along beaches in 25 states. According to the Interagency Task Force on Persistent Marine Debris, latex balloons take three to five months to deteriorate on land when exposed to east coast summer conditions, perhaps longer in water".

I have brought up this matter because discarded balloons are obviously causing some distress to sea mammals. There are already few enough turtles and whales about as it is. I am amazed that there are still as many fish about as there are. However, there is also a litter problem here. I believe we should think about dissuading people from indulging in mass balloon releases. We should think twice before allowing those. I should be interested to hear whether the Government are thinking along those lines. I beg to move.

Lord Swinfen

I wish to support this amendment. I believe it would also cover paint from a spray can which is frequently used to disfigure all kinds of places around the country.

5.45 p.m.

Viscount Mountgarret

I hope it will be appropriate for me to speak to my Amendment No. 290 which is grouped with this amendment and is, to an extent, relevant to this discussion. I should be grateful if my noble friend on the Front Bench could give me some guidance on my amendment. It could be deemed by some people to be somewhat surplus to requirements.

This clause relates very much to rubbish and I hope that I shall not be speaking rubbish about rubbish. The word "whatsoever" in line 35 on page 90 of the Bill is a pretty all-embracing word. The amendment that I have tabled seeks to identify clearly whether rubbish should be wrapped. By the term "wrapping" I mean placing rubbish in what is commonly known these days as a litter bag. A litter bag is one of those black things that one buys if one lives in the area of a poor council or that one is given if one lives in the area of a fairly rich council.

I raise this matter because over the past few years there has been an ever increasing amount of rubbish bags dumped on our pavements, particularly in our cities. One can well understand the reason for that and I am not complaining about that in particular, provided it is kept within reason. One places one's litter in these bags to enable the litter lorry to pass along the street at a reasonable pace and all the chaps have to do is to sling the bags on to the back of it. That is all right so far as it goes, but unfortunately either the residents are required to put the bags out on the pavements—I am thinking particularly of our cities—and they are left for several days on end, or the local authority staff, particularly in London, refuse to go up steps to pick up bags. Whatever the cause of the problem, the fact is that the bags are left lying on pavements for a long time. That is offensive as the smell can be quite ghastly. That is particularly so if one happens to go anywhere near Harrods on a Monday morning when the refuse is put out from the restaurant. I believe it is a fish restaurant.

Further, dogs can mutilate the plastic and cause rubbish and filth to spew out on to the pavement. Hence the reason for this amendment which is part and parcel of the noble Lord's point. I should be grateful if my noble friend would be kind enough to confirm that the word "whatsoever" includes rubbish left in recognised litter bags that are dumped on the pavement.

Lord Hesketh

I must confess to my noble friend that I cannot quite see what Amendment No. 290 hopes to achieve that is not achieved by the clause as it stands.

The clause refers to the dropping of any thing whatsoever. The word "whatsoever" clearly implies that the thing may be large or small, light or heavy, of any colour and wrapped or unwrapped. I fully understand my noble friend's anxiety that the offence should embrace all manner of items, whether wrapped or otherwise. However, I would suggest to him that his amendment—be its aim never so laudable—would not add to the effectiveness of the clause. I hope my noble friend will feel able to withdraw it in the light of that explanation.

Amendments Nos. 289, 291, 292 and 294 are all related to a specific aspect of the offence of littering. The noble Lord, Lord Ross, has explained that the intention behind them is effectively to ban all releases of balloons filled with lighter-than-air gases because of the litter balloons may create and the danger they may pose to animals, particularly marine wildlife.

While I agree that we must stop littering and I appreciate that releasing balloons, particularly en masse, can endanger wildlife, I am afraid that I cannot accept the noble Lord's amendments today. They are too far-reaching in their possible consequences for me to accept without first considering the views of all interested parties. I can assure the Committee that the Government will consider any representations that are made on the subject, whether from individuals, interest groups or the relevant parts of industry. Once we have ascertained the scope of the problem and all its implications, we shall consider any necessary legislative measures, whether in this current forum or in appropriate future legislation. I hope that the noble Lords will consider that response.

Lord Ross of Newport

That is a very fair reply and as good as I could have expected. I should like to point out that the Canadian Government cancelled the release of tens of thousands of balloons from Ottawa on Canada Day and there is now a wave of anti-balloon sentiment passing through the United States. I hope that the person who wrote to the Guardian calling Mr. Buxton a killjoy will not regard me as being in the same league because I am stopping people's enjoyment.

This is a serious debate and I am grateful for the response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Mountgarret had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 290: Page 90, line 35, after ("whatsoever") insert ("whether wrapped or not").

The noble Viscount said: I am very grateful to my noble friend for his confirmation of my understanding of the position. I shall repeat it in order to be clear that the word "whatsoever" includes rubbish, wrapped, unwrapped or in a rubbish bag, which is dumped in a public place. If that is so I am very grateful and I shall not move the amendment.

[Amendment No. 290 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 291 and 292 not moved.]

Viscount Mountgarret moved Amendment No. 293: Page 90, line 45, after first ("road") insert ("or pavement").

The noble Viscount said: Once again the purpose of the amendment is to seek clarification, in particular as to what my noble friend might consider to be a road. Does it include the pavement? If authorities are to be responsible for keeping the roads free from unacceptable litter under the provisions of the Bill when passed that must include the pavement. It may be that the word "road" includes the pavement but if it does not I should have thought that the amendment would be a useful contribution to the Bill. I shall be grateful for guidance on the matter. I beg to move.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I believe that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I spoke to Amendments Nos. 298 and 299. Amendment No. 298 makes it clear that footpaths and bridleways are to be treated in the same way as roads as regards litter. This is a similar question to the one which my noble friend Lord Mountgarret raised regarding pavements. I hope that my noble friend the Minister can confirm that footpaths and bridleways are included. If he does so I hope that he will confirm that it is the duty of the highway authority to keep them clear of rubbish and that the owner of the footpath may demand that the highway authority collects such rubbish.

Rubbish on rights of way is a problem, particularly in what might be termed natural stopping places. I hope that my noble friend can tell me what steps will be taken by the highway authorities after the passing of the Bill to improve matters.

Amendment No. 299 makes it clear that it is also the responsibility of the highway authority to keep the verge clear of rubbish. I understand that when the verge is cut, or worse still sprayed, unsightly rubbish appears and becomes much more evident. Is it the highway authority's duty to clear that rubbish, particularly after cutting the verge when it appears so unpleasant? Certain highway authorities, Gwynedd in particular, seem to delight in cutting the verges of minor roads in May, depressing wild flowers and displaying rubbish instead. Will I, as a member of the public, and many others who support me, be able to require the highway authority to clear up the rubbish so revealed by this thoughtless, expensive and unnecessary desecration of the countryside?

Lord Fanshawe of Richmond

It may be convenient if I intervene now to support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Mountgarret. I had intended to speak to his later amendments, Amendments Nos. 300 and 301, but as my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley has referred to Amendments Nos. 298 and 299 I should be grateful if the Committee would permit me to raise a matter, of which I have given my noble friend notice, namely the question of litter on the central reservations and roundabouts of major trunk roads.

The problem occurred to a major extent recently on the A.4 between London and the airport, between the Chiswick flyover and the Hammersmith flyover. The litter scattered along the central reservation, on the roundabout at the Feathers, and behind it on the central reservation up to the Hammersmith roundabout was a public disgrace. The road is used by a great deal of traffic travelling to and from the airport. Quite often it is the first view that visitors to this country have of London.

I raised the matter in a Parliamentary Question on 5th April and discovered that money was allocated by my noble friend's department to the two local councils involved—the Hounslow Borough Council and Hammersmith and Fulham Council—to clear up that rubbish. The department undertook to find out what was happening. By 19th July nothing had happened. Subsequently Hammersmith took action and cleared its section of the central reservation between the Hammersmith flyover and the Feathers roundabout. Nothing was done by Hounslow. On 18th October I received a letter from my noble friend Lord Davidson on behalf of the department saying that he was considerably distressed that no action had been taken and that the department was taking the matter up with the Hounslow local authority.

The matter was taken up with the Hounslow local authority and nothing happened, even though it was allocated £22,705 in 1988–89, £14,481 in 1989–90 and a further £3,240 to clear up the very serious litter problem. Therefore I put down another Parliamentary Question on 29th November. By 20th December some action had been taken by Hounslow but virtually nothing with regard to the roundabout at the Feathers.

Therefore it seems very important that roads should include roundabouts, pavements—as mentioned by my noble friend—and central reservations. I should like to ask my noble friend when he replies to my noble friend Lord Mountgarret's question to say whether "roads" include central reservations and roundabouts and whether he is satisfied that he is taking enough powers to ensure that local authorities carry out their obligations, particularly when public money is given to local authorities by central government. That is perhaps underlined, as my noble friend would observe if he cared to drive down the A4 one morning, by the fact that the roundabout at the Feathers is still deep in litter.

Lord Swinfen

It is not at all unusual in towns and cities for a proportion of the pavement, sometimes quite a large proportion, not to be owned by the local authority or highway authority but by the freeholder of the adjoining land. Can my noble friend advise the Committee whether that part of the pavement that is not in public ownership counts as part of the road, as suggested in the amendment?

In addition, can he tell the Committee who is responsible for cleansing that part of the pavement normally used by members of the public rather than by the freeholder? In this respect the freeholder quite often is not the occupier of the adjoining land. That is occupied by a tenant, sometimes at the end of a whole string of sub-tenancies. The matter needs to be clarified at this stage of the Bill; otherwise, there will be an awful mess and many legal arguments and fees for the barristers at the end of the day.

6 p.m.

Lord Reay

I can reassure my noble friends in whose names these amendments stand that the points which they seek to clarify are already covered. Clause 92(5) of the Bill provides that "highway" shall have the same meaning as in the Highways Act 1980. In that Act the word extends to the whole or any part of anything which would be a highway at common law. Both under that Act and at common law, bridleways and footpaths are merely types of highway. Provided that any footpath or bridleway is maintainable at the public expense, it is a relevant highway by virtue of Clause 83(9) and therefore already covered by Clause 86(1)(a).

Any verge within the highway boundary is part of the highway. As such it is already covered by the duties imposed by Clause 86. Also, the pavement adjacent to the carriageway on which traffic runs, known as the footway in highway terminology, is part of the highway.

Lord Swinfen

Perhaps my noble friend will allow me to intervene. He mentioned the pavement which is maintainable at public expense. In a number of instances in which the pavment is now owned by the public authority it has to be maintained by the freeholder. That puts a rather different slant on the matter.

Lord Reay

I do not know whether this is an answer to my noble friend's question but public rights of way which run over private land fall to the local authority to clean. I was also asked about the duties of local authorities. In so far as the footways and verges are part of the highway, the local authority will indeed be required to keep them clean.

My noble friend Lord Fanshawe raised an issue on which he has intimate experience; namely, the litter on the A4 into London. The Department of Transport has been active in pursuing my noble friend's complaints with its agents the Hammersmith and Fulham and Hounslow Borough Councils. That case highlights the problem of divided responsibility for clearing litter which exists at present between highway authorities and district and borough councils. The Bill will place responsibility for litter clearance from roads squarely on one authority. In carrying out its duty that authority will have to have regard to the code of practice with respect to standards. In reply to his other question, a roundabout is part of the highway.

The Earl of Halsbury

There is an aspect of our debate which makes me uneasy from the legal and drafting points of view. There is a rather treacherous legal doctrine, which I do not pretend to understand in all its implications, called the exclusio alterius rule, which means that when one makes a long list of items and does not put something into that list it is construed to mean that there was a purpose in not putting it into that list.

In one of the amendments that we conceded the wording in the Act is "throwing down". Why does that not include throwing up? When one winnows corn, the chaff is thrown up together with the corn, which then falls down while the chaff drifts along on the breeze. I can imagine people who are learned in the law arguing about why that Act excluded throwing up when mentioning throwing down. It is the same with all the arguments about little pieces of roadway and so on. But what about a footbridge over a roadway, for example? That is not included. We have been talking about roundabouts. What about footbridges and so on? Would it not be easier to consider at Report stage whether we might proceed by a kind of negative route? Instead of trying to make a long list of everywhere that one cannot do something, we might say that these things are excluded everywhere except on a licensed rubbish deposit premises. Then it does not matter whether one's list is complete or incomplete. By adopting the negative approach one captures everything. That thought occurred to me while listening to the arguments that have been put forward.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am very attracted by the noble Earl's argument. Does he ever travel on top of a bus and look down at the tops of bus shelters? That is throwing up.

Viscount Mountgarret

In the part of the world from which I come his "throwing up" is something which is not understood. We always talk about feeding down the cattle and bedding them up. I always thought that the farmers had it the wrong way round. However, so long as they knew what they meant and what had to be done, that surely was all that mattered.

I am extremely grateful to hear from my noble friend that my amendment is unnecessary owing to the clarification to which he was good enough to draw my attention in later passages of the Bill. I confess that I tried to read through the Bill to find whether the word "pavement" was in it, but I am afraid that it was too thick for me to finish, and I could not find it. Perhaps moving this amendment has given a chance to a number of noble Lords to raise comments on issues about which they are concerned. I listened carefully to the replies that we received, particularly that from my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley. It seems to me that it falls to the local authority to maintain clear from rubbish a highway or footpath which crosses a private person's land but which is used by the public. I am extremely relieved to hear that. I do not know whether that applies to my noble friend. In view of what we have heard, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 294 not moved.]

On Question, Clause 84 agreed to.

Lord Stanley of Alderley moved Amendment No. 295:

After Clause 84, insert the following new clause:

("Prohibition on the sale of ring pull containers

  1. —(1) For the purpose of preventing the defacement by litter of, and the creation of a public nuisance in, any place to which this section applies any retailer who sells a beverage contained in a ring pull container shall be guilty of an offence.
  2. (2) This section applies to those places to which section 84 above applies.
  3. 1674
  4. (3) A retailer who is guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum.
  5. (4) In this section—
retailer" means a person whose business is or includes that of selling a beverage for the purpose or use of consumption of that beverage and in the case of sale by a vending machine includes the owner of that vending machine; ring pull container" means a sealed container wholly or mainly constructed of metal and capable of being opened without the aid of any instrument, by the removal of a portion of the container in such a manner as results or may result in a severance of the portion so removed.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment addresses the problem of ring-pull containers, which I raised a few years ago in this Chamber. Since tabling this amendment I have had a letter from the can makers who assure me that they have this problem in hand. Many of them, particularly the soft drink manufacturers, now produce cans on which the little bits at the top (as I call them) remain attached when opened. I am sure that the Committee will realise how tiresome it is when the little bits at the top of the can come off. They become litter and are extremely dangerous to animals and children, especially on the beach. The matter now appears to be slowly getting in hand. I am certainly pleased to have notice of such intent.

However, those who still worry me slightly are the beer manufacturers who certainly lag behind in this area. That is true particularly of the producers of high alcohol continental lagers which, I understand, cause trouble also in other fields. This amendment would speed the solution to this small but irritating nuisance. What is more important is that it would make sure that the United Kingdom does not become a dumping ground for such rubbish. If we are the last in line to ban ring pulls—the little bits which become detached from the can—all the old stock from Denmark, Germany and throughout the world will slowly be dumped on us.

I hope that my noble friend will look carefully on this amendment. It is beautifully drafted because I took it straight out of Australian legislation. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

I have certainly learned something this afternoon. I was unaware of the supremacy of Australian parliamentary draftsmen.

Amendment No. 295 would make it an offence for any retailer to sell a drink contained in a can with a detachable ring-pull. We would fully support the aim of this amendment, and have encouraged manufacturers to move to the non-detachable ring-pull cans, but I doubt whether the amendment is practicable or, indeed, necessary. The can manufacturers are working hard to produce drinks only in cans with non-detachable ring-pulls. Most drinks are now sold in those new cans, following the excellent lead by Coca-Cola last year, but there is still a little way to go. Nonetheless, the manufacturers expect all cans to have the new non-detachable ring-pull within the next couple of years.

There are a number of other practical reasons why I believe we should not accept this amendment. Does the retailer have to throw away all his stocks of cans with detachable ring-pulls? This proposal could be particularly damaging for the small businessman who stocks up at the cash-and-carry well in advance and finds himself suddenly breaking the law.

What of the cans that for technical reasons have not yet been converted to the non-detachable ring-pull type? There are still some beverages that have to be sold in the old style cans, until such time as technology enables them to use the non-detachable ring-pull types.

How will the offence be enforced? Canned drinks are not just sold in newsagents, or off-licences, but in supermarkets, pubs, railway stations, sports centres, and the rest. Under the amendment all those retailers would face a maximum fine of £2,000 for selling cans against the maximum fine of £1,000 for littering. The person selling the can would face a stiffer penalty than the mindless individual who throws down the ring-pull top on opening it.

We must also not lose sight of the fact that a can with a non-detachable ring-pull makes just as much litter as an old-style can. We must concentrate our efforts on stopping the inconsiderate people who throw their litter on the ground instead of into the bin. That is what we intend to do in Clauses 84 and 85 and by encouraging local authorities and others to place greater emphasis on education and anti-litter dumping.

I have to draw to my noble friend's attention a Japanese can which I saw the other day. It was an insulated can. The advantage is the saving on energy to keep it cool. The whole of the top comes off. I fear that we shall then move into a possible technical conflict of ecological soundness.

Lord Monson

The noble Lord said confidently that all manufacturers were in the process of switching to the improved type of can. Is he totally sure of that? There are many manufacturers of beer, lager and soft drinks in the world. Many of those drinks are imported into this country. I appreciate his argument. Is he absolutely certain that all manufacturers are following the good practice initiated by Coca-Cola and others?

Lord Hesketh

I would be the first to admit that it would be very foolish to say that not one single can had managed to slip through the net. However, it is the general trend.

Lord Swinfen

I entirely approve of the idea behind my noble friend's amendment but I am a little worried about the words in the penultimate line of the amendment which state, in such a manner as results"— and here comes the problem— or may result in a severance of the portion". I have seen some of the modern cans which are designed to be opened with a ring-pull that does not sever but the opening does. If it does, then all those cans would become illegal.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I thank my noble friend for the sympathy. I do not agree with the reasons that he cannot accept the amendment. I feel that I may have to return to the matter at Report stage.

I shall consider the small matter that my noble friend raises. I am sure that there would be a defence if it were faulty. The design works perfectly well in South Australia. I cannot therefore see why it cannot work here. At times we are apt to be a little pathetic when saying. "It will not work because".

My noble friend the Minister gave me two reasons why he could not accept the amendment. First, he said that it was not necessary because the matter was going to be put in hand. When I moved the amendment I pointed out that if we are last in line to ban such cans, we shall be the last to get rid of them because other countries will keep throwing their rubbish at us. The amendment is therefore necessary.

Secondly, my noble friend said that it was not practical because there were many types of can. This is a chicken and egg situation. The answer is to provide for a two-year delay after the passing of the Act. That will give everyone time to get their act together. The lids of the new cans would not become detached and the old ones would have been used up.

I do not believe that it was a particularly good answer. My noble friend probably does not wish to answer now, but if I were to put forward the same amendment on Report, providing for a delay period after the passing of the Act, would he be happy? It would concentrate the minds of the manufacturers quite remarkably and keep out many of the high alcohol lager cans from Denmark. My noble friend may wish to consider that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.15 p.m.

Clause 85 [Fixed penalty notices for leaving litter]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 295A: Page 91, line 26, at end insert ("and that person shall co-operate with any reasonable requests of the authorised officer for information, including their name and address").

The noble Lord said: Like so many amendments this afternoon, this amendment is very simple. I do not know how many noble Lords have seen the television coverage of the very admirable initiative of Westminster City Council to pass by-laws which authorise its enforcement officers to charge on-the-spot fines for people dropping litter in Westminster. Television camera coverage of people attempting to enforce this by-law has shown that there is considerable disrespect shown to the Westminster officers who have tried to do so. Many people ask, "Who the hell are you?" or use even less polite words, and refuse to do anything about it. If they are asked for their names and addresses, they simply say, "Mickey Mouse" or "Donald Duck". Westminster is a crowded borough with many people around. There is a good chance that on the crowded pavements of Westminster someone will try to support the enforcement officer and say, "You really must not do that. There is a law here and we all ought to obey it".

If we are going to extend the principle of on-the-spot fines to all parts of the country where the pavements are less crowded, there is less likely to be any other public support for the enforcement officer. Something has to be done about people who simply ignore the provisions of Part IV of the Bill and simply give false or contemptuous names to the enforcement officer.

It is of course an intrusion on privacy, but it is at the time of committing the offence. If the Government wish to make this part of the Bill work, the considered view of local authorities and their environmental health officers is that we shall have to have some such provision. I beg to move.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I raise an anxiety that has been expressed to me about this new on-the-spot fine system. I make it clear that I believe the experience of Westminster has suggested that it is a good system. I do not comment on the particular point of the amendment.

However, the implication seems to be that the litter Officers, if I may so call them, are entitled to operate anywhere where it is an offence to drop litter. We have already had occasion to consider the creation of an offence of dropping litter on private property. The particular anxiety that I raise relates to shopping centres. It is suggested that it might be counter productive if a local authority litter officer were free to carry out his duties on what is in effect private property and on what is regarded and certainly treated by the operators of multiple shopping centres as an area that they try to make as attractive, friendly and welcoming as possible.

I should like my noble friend on the Front Bench to answer this question if he can. Is that supposition right? It should be perfectly open for an operator of a shopping centre to enter into an agreement with a local authority that the local authority's officers conduct this system; or, alternatively, he may be perfectly prepared to say, "Our own staff are capable of dealing with this and we shall deal with it in our own way because it is in our interests to make sure that litter is not dropped and that our place remains tidy, welcoming, clean and user-friendly for the public". However, if he has to accept without question that it is the local authortity's litter officers who will come into the premises and conduct their activities, it creates a somewhat different situation.

Can my noble friend say whether that is the intention? The fear is that such places will be more attractive to the litter officer, particularly if it is raining, and that therefore he will spend time conducting his operations there. If he is free to wander around such places while fulfilling his duties, he will do so. Therefore, the pavements will be left to the litter louts and the shoppers will find themselves being harassed by local authority officers. It would be better if the operator were responsible.

Lord Swinfen

I assume that the authorised officer of the litter authority will not be a constable. As such, will he have the power to ask for the name and address of the litter lout? If not, is the amendment not required?

Lord Hesketh

Amendment No. 295A requires that any person issued with a fixed penalty notice for littering must co-operate with the authorised officer issuing the notice and, if requested, provide his name and address.

I am afraid that the amendment is impractical and unenforceable. If a person has admitted that he has committed an offence and is willing to accept a fixed penalty notice then the officer can rely only on his co-operation in giving his name and address. It does not need legislation to do that. The amendment rightly falls short of giving the officer the right to demand the name and address. We do not propose that he should have that right, because to extend that power beyond the police would, we believe, be unacceptable to the general public and would lead to an outcry about infringing civil liberties.

In any case, I believe that the amendment is unnecessary. The public in Britain are, for the most part, a reasonable lot and, when approached by an authorised officer, will admit to having dropped litter. We know that this is the case as a result of the oft-quoted Westminster scheme, where in the first year of operation only four of the 727 people approached refused to pick up the litter that they had just dropped. Of those four, only one refused to give his name and address when requested by the officer. That shows that there is no need for legislation.

My noble friend Lord Jenkin inquired about shopping centres. Litter wardens will not be able to enter private land without permission in order to issue fixed penalty tickets. However, it is fair to point out that whenever I have visited successful shopping centres around the world one of the keys to their success is that cleanliness is considered to be a vital feature of their operation.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I hope that the Minister is right. I also hope that experience will show that the figures that he quoted for Westminster are applicable to other local authority areas. However, I fear that in those other areas public support for litter control officers may not be so strong. Only time will show whether that is the case or whether, as I fear, the lack of enforcement powers will result in the fixed penalty notice falling into disrepute and being abandoned. That is not an event which either of us can predict accurately. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 296: Page 92, line 4, leave out from ("shall") to ("and") in line 5 and insert (", subject to subsection (6A) below, be £10;").

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 297 because both deal with the level of the fixed penalty for littering. They arise from our conclusion that the method of expressing the level of the fixed penalty in the Bill before us—that is, as a proportion of a particular level on the standard scale of fines—is too inflexible.

Amendment No. 296 states on the face of the Bill that the level of the fixed penalty is £10. This is the level employed by Westminster City Council in the operation of its scheme. Amendment No. 297 empowers the Secretary of State to vary the level of the penalty by order. This will avoid us having to wait for a review of the levels of penalty on the standard scale before the fixed penalty can be increased. He may, for example, wish to raise the penalty to £15 or £20 if it transpires that on a nationwide scale the £10 penalty is not a sufficient deterrent to the casual litterer. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Ross of Newport moved Amendment No. 296A: Page 92, line 5, leave out from ("scale") to end of line 10.

The noble Lord said: Clause 85 establishes a system similar to the parking ticket system under which authorised officers of local authorities issue notices to persons suspected of littering. People then have the opportunity to discharge liability to conviction of the offence by paying a fixed penalty. The scheme has already been tried out in Westminster.

One of the problems with Clause 85 is that local authorities are given the duty to collect the fixed penalty without any benefit accruing to them. In England and Wales the money goes to the Secretary of State and in Scotland it goes to the district courts. I assume that it ends in the same place—that is, the Treasury.

The fixed penalty amounts to a small but distinct form of income for central government which is collected at the cost of local authorities. Discussions are taking place between the local authority associations and the Department of the Environment with a view to the Autumn Statement on next year's spending. The view has been taken by local authorities that the likely level of income from fixed penalty notices will not be substantial. Experiences of that were related by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, when speaking to an earlier amendment.

It is appreciated that the Government are unlikely to respond to the amendment purely in terms of whether or not it will raise income for local authorities. However, the conclusion to be drawn from the possibility that the scheme may not be a money spinner is that the number of fixed penalties collected will be small. I hope that it will be small because, if not, we shall not be dealing with the litter problem.

An additional problem is that local authorities will have to spare scarce resources to devote to the enforcement of the clause. Therefore, I suggest in the amendment that local authorities should be entitled to retain the money that they receive from the issuing of the writs for payment. I hope that, for once, my amendment will appeal to the Minister. I beg to move.

The Earl of Balfour

I fear that if the amendment is accepted the position existing in Scotland will weaken the powers of enforcement granted to local authorities. Such provisions can be enforced only through the district courts. I cannot support the amendment, although I sympathise with the idea behind it.

Lord Hesketh

I must express a considerable amount of interest in the amendment because the question that it raises is one that I have often asked in my department. However, I fear that the answer which I must give to the noble Lord, Lord Ross, will be similar to that which I received from my officials on those occasions.

The intention behind Amendment No. 296A is to allow local authorities to keep any revenue accruing from the fixed penalties. However, I am afraid that it does not achieve the desired effect. As regards England and Wales, removing the reference to fines being paid to the Secretary of State will have no effect. The money would still be paid into the Consolidated Fund. In Scotland, as the Bill stands at present, revenue from fines would be paid to the local authorities because, under the Scottish legal system, it is the local authorities which finance the courts. As the amendment would remove the reference to this, the fines would then be payable to the Consolidated Fund, in the same way as fines in England and Wales.

The principle of revenue from fines being paid to the Exchequer via the Consolidated Fund rather than to individual local authorities was set out about 40 years ago in the Justices of the Peace Act 1949. This Act required all fines to be paid to the Consolidated Fund. There were two reasons for that. The first was to ensure that the prosecuting authorities did not benefit financially in the cases that they brought. The second was that, as the running costs of the courts were met centrally, all fines should be paid to the Exchequer to defray those costs. That policy has continued consistently to be applied by Parliament to local Bills.

While I understand that some authorities would wish to keep money obtained from fixed penalties to offset their costs I am sure that Members of the Committee will see the sound reasoning behind preserving this important judicial principle.

In any event, the revenue accruing from the fixed penalties is unlikely significantly to increase the local authorities' coffers. In the first year of operation of the Westminster fixed-penalty scheme, which it considers to have been very successful, only £10 was collected from fines. That was because Westminster's officers had been particularly effective in raising the profile of the litter problem. When approached by the officers less than a handful of people refused to pick up the litter that they had dropped. Therefore there was no need to issue notices in the vast majority of cases.

For the important fundamental reasons in the first part of my reply, we do not accept the noble Lord's amendment.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Parry

Before the noble Lord sits down, if I understood the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, correctly, he objected to the principle of fixed fines on the grounds that such matters are better dealt with by the courts. If that is so, I make the point that at present there is a real problem as regards litter offences being dealt with by the courts. If a crowded court agenda has on it serious crimes and then, alongside that, there is a quite serious offence of litter-dropping, the magistrates or indeed the judges are likely to think that, compared to the serious criminal offences with which they have been dealing, the litter-dropping offence is quite trivial.

As the Minister said, it is important to use fixed fines as a means of drawing attention to the incident and seeing that the litter is picked up. That is better than taking the matter through the courts and convicting the person of the offence.

Lord Ross of Newport

That was an interesting response. Is Westminster City Countil allowed to keep the £10 so far raised? If it wishes to continue the scheme, after the Bill is passed, will it be possible for the council to keep that money or does it have to go to the Consolidated Fund?

The Scottish law has it right. The noble Earl, Lord Balfour, said that the money which goes to the district courts helps the local authority to run the court. It seems to me that we should have that system south of the Border. I understand the problems. However, the matter has been aired and I am grateful to learn that the Minister makes similar suggestions to his colleagues and civil servants. It would be one way in which the local authorities could receive some response for the actions which we lay upon them in legislation. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 297: Page 92, line 10, at end insert: ("(6A) The Secretary of State may by order substitute a different amount for the amount for the time being specified as the amount of the fixed penalty in subsection (6) above.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 85, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 86 [Duty to keep land and highways clear of litter etc.]:

[Amendments Nos. 298 to 300 not moved.]

Viscount Mountgarret moved Amendment No. 301: Page 93, line 26, leave out ("so far as is practicable").

The noble Viscount said: I have taken it upon myself to propose this drafting amendment. In Parliament we have marvellous Bills and regulations and then we insert words which totally undo and destroy the very matters which we have spent hours discussing. I remember well only a couple of days ago the noble Lord, Lord Monson, who I am pleased to see in his seat, raised a question as regards what is "reasonable excuse". He felt that it was very important to write into a Bill that it should be considered whether people who transgressed the law might have a reasonable excuse. I sympathise with that point of view although it was not accepted in the Chamber at the end of the day.

I believe that the words: so far as is practicable are irrelevant. Either the local authority or the Secretary of State is or is not required to ensure that the highway or road is kept clean and not "so far as is practicable". Let us suppose that the Secretary of State, local authority or whoever is responsible, fails to keep the roads clean and is therefore rendered liable to prosecution. In dealing with that prosecution, the magistrates listen to the facts of the offence. If there is an extremely good reason for the road not being kept clean and the transgression of the law was merely technical, then that would be understood and accepted. Normally the case would never be taken to court in the first instance because of the acceptance of the mitigating circumstances. Therefore, we do not wish to clutter up our Bills with unnecessary verbiage. That is what those few words are. I beg to move.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My noble friend deserves support. I am sure that he did not mean to suggest in his closing remarks that it is not our habit to fill our legislation with unnecessary verbiage. Indeed it is a well entrenched custom of Parliament to do that but it is not a custom to which we should necessary be loyal to the death.

The Government are not achieving much if they see fit to impose a duty upon a local authority but then say, "You need not do that if you do not find it practicable". I hope that the Minister will accede to the suggestion made by my noble friend because I think he is absolutely right.

Lord Reay

The duty upon local authorities and the Secretary of State to clean highways is qualified by the important caveat, "as far as is practicable" and it is this caveat, in so far as it applies to the cleaning of highways, which my noble friend's amendment seeks to remove. However, much as I share my noble friend's anxiety to ensure that no highway is suffered to remain dirty as a result of laggardliness, I must assure the Committee that this qualification on the duty is here for two very good reasons.

First, and generally, the duty must be reasonable if we wish the courts to enforce it. Secondly, the clause recognises explicitly that it may, on occasion, be difficult or impossible to discharge the duty.

When it comes to clearing litter from busy roads, and especially motorways, practicability is of the essence. You cannot clear motorways at the drop of a hat. I am sure my noble friend will appreciate that traffic management measures have to be taken to ensure the safety both of road users and of those undertaking litter clearance, and to minimise delays to traffic. These measures require careful planning, particularly on motorways. The code of practice to which all duty authorities will have to have regard will serve as the basis for defining what is practicable in any given situation.

However, it is not only on motorways that practicability is an essential factor. I find myself thinking of the local authority officer charged with the task of cleaning the road which is under three feet of snow, or over which an indelible substance has been spilled, or around which a storm is raging, or upon which a number of cars are parked.

In view of all this, perhaps my noble friend will concede that there is a variety of circumstances which might well render the discharge of the duty so impracticable that some latitude is essential, and I invite him to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

That very broadminded and forgiving attitude is an excellent explantion for the filthy state of many of our roads.

Lord Parry

Will the Minister withdraw the phrase, "at the drop of a hat" because in the context of the sentence in which he used it, that might be constituted as an encouragement to drop litter?

Lord Reay

I am perfectly happy to withdraw that phrase. It is not essential and I should not wish to give an inadvertent encouragement to dropping litter.

Viscount Mountgarret

I am not at all happy with that answer. He has tried to play fast and loose. I do not mind being taken for a bit of a dimwit at times because I am prepared to admit that I am and that I do not understand everything. But what are we talking about? We are talking about litter. That is the point. We are not talking about snow on the motorways or anything like that. The Minister is using that as a cover for not accepting the amendment and I do not think that that is fair.

I am beaten if I let the matter stand like that. My noble friend referred to many points about there being a great deal of traffic and so on which are very understandable. However, I want to ensure that our roads and pavements and the places where the public live and walk are kept clean and not simply kept clean, so far as is practicable". I therefore reserve my position. I may come back at Report stage to try to clarify the matter, defining precisely the community area rather than the public motorway and highway. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Mountgarret moved Amendment No. 302: Page 93, line 26, at end insert ("and clear of refuse bins, bags and other similar receptacles").

The noble Viscount said: This is a totally different subject, although we are still dealing with refuse. A fearsome instrument has just been introduced into this country: it is called a wheely-bin. I do not know how many noble Lords have met one of those terrifying things, but I shall tell the Committee what they are from my experiences of them in the north of England where I live.

They were introduced a few years ago by the burghers of München Gladback in Germany. I apologise to the Hansard writers, who will get totally confused with that name. I shall write it out later for them. The burghers operated a scheme whereby householders put their rubbish into the bins, trundled them off to the end of their drives and dumped them there until the dustbin men came along and supposedly tipped them mechanically into the lorry. Eventually, the refuse collectors became so angry at being made to use those things, because they were so heavy and cumbersome, that they almost went on strike. The burghers then decided that the scheme was no good and ended up by dumping the bins or offering them for sale at half price to a certain council in the north of England at a cost of £78 each. The local borough has taken up that offer and everyone is being issued with wheely-bins.

People are requested to push their refuse down their drives. Some people may be fortunate in not having very far to go, but for an elderly person even 50 yards is a long way. It is unreasonable. What happens if there is snow? We have quite rightly been accustomed to refuse collectors coming to clear our bins. We have paid quite a lot for that service in the past. We now pay a good deal more and will probably pay even more in the future. It is unacceptable to have those things left out on the roadside waiting for collection. That point is not entirely dissimilar from one raised in connection with my previous amendment. I should hate to see this awful creature—the wheely-bin—being given a free ride, as it were, far and wide for ever and a day. This might be the moment to stop it. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

This amendment requires local authorities and the Secretary of State to keep highways, clear of refuse bins, bags and other similar receptacles". I am indebted to my noble friend for introducing us to the wheely-bin. I regret that I cannot support him in this amendment, but I certainly sympathise with his aims. Piles of bin bags and the like on the footway or in the road are unsightly and they often represent a considerable nuisance and danger especially to the infirm, the elderly and those with a visual handicap.

However, I fear that my noble friend's amendment has implications which go far beyond his laudable intentions. Some confusion may result from his terminology. As I mentioned earlier, the term "highway" includes what most of us would call the pavement, although in highway terminology it is called the footway. My noble friend will therefore see that his amendment would prohibit the placing, by local authorities, of litter bins and the like on the footway, which may not be his intention.

As for the scourge of black bin bags, I can assure my noble friend that I share his disgust that all too often an otherwise clean and tidy street is reduced to squalor by their presence. However, local authorities already have powers to deal with those who put such bags out at times when no collection is due. To obstruct the highway, including the footway, is an offence under the Highways Act 1980 and offenders run the risk of prosecution. I know that a number of local authorities—Westminster, for instance—vigorously enforce that law and I would strongly urge others to do likewise. At the same time, shopkeepers, who are frequently cited as the main culprits, must realise that they have an obligation to act at all times with a due sense of their responsibility to the local community. It is totally unacceptable for our footways to become assault courses with the consequent risk to life and limb.

Nevertheless, I suspect that the appearance of bin bags on the footway from time to time is probably inevitable. Householders and businesses are required to make their refuse readily available for collection and it may be that the only practical place to put it is on the footway. But, as I have implied, the placing of such refuse on the footway at a time when no collection is due would clearly constitute an offence under the Highways Act. I therefore hope that my noble friend will not press his amendment.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

Perhaps I may raise one point with my noble friend. Surely shops should not put their bags outside on a Saturday evening, because they are broken into over the weekend. That happens in Marsham Street, which is covered with newspapers every Sunday.

Lord Reay

The time when it is permissible for bags to be placed on the footway depends on the local refuse collection arrangements.

Viscount Mountgarret

We covered that point in an earlier amendment. As I understood it, one of my noble friends on the Front Bench confirmed that it was the duty of the local authority to keep pavements clear of litter and refuse. It is common sense: you put out the refuse so that it can be picked up more quickly. I seek to remove the wheely-bins. There should be a requirement for the council to collect refuse from people's homes or from points adjacent thereto. It is not right or proper that anyone, particularly the elderly, the infirm or the disabled, should have to trundle that cumbersome thing down their drives.

My noble friend's answer is not good enough. I accept what he said about leaving litter on the pavement and the fact that the blocking of pavements is an obstruction under the Highways Act 1980. However, the purpose of the amendment is to try to ensure that local authorities will desist from requiring their customers—for want of a better word—to put their litter on the highway so that the authority can collect it there rather than from the house.

I shall not ask the Committee's view of the amendment, although perhaps I should. However, I should like my noble friend to consider the matter because it is difficult, particularly for elderly people. On that basis, if my noble friend will take the issue on board, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Reay moved Amendment No. 302ZA:

Page 94, line 7, leave out ("(3)") and insert ("(2)").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 383A and 383B.

These amendments are necessary to ensure consistency of drafting between this Bill and the provisions of the Road Traffic (Temporary Restrictions) Bill, which is also before the House. Clause 86(6) enables a local authority to ask the highway authority or roads authority to exercise its powers temporarily to prohibit or restrict traffic to facilitate litter clearance and cleaning on roads. Those powers are contained in Section 14 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. The Road Traffic (Temporary Restrictions) Bill will replace the present Sections 14 and 15 of the 1984 Act with new Sections 14 and 15.

These amendments anticipate this replacement by altering references to subsection numbers. The opportunity is also being taken to alter the additional subsection to be inserted in Section 14 of the 1984 Act by paragraph 20 of Schedule 13 of this Bill so that those highway authorities which also have duties under Clause 86(1) and (2) (in England the metropolitan districts and London boroughs) can make orders or issue notices under Section 14 of the 1984 Act to enable those duties to be discharged safely. It further provides that a notice prohibiting or restricting traffic to enable litter clearance shall not remain in force for more than five days from the date of the notice. I ask the Committee to accept these amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Norrie moved Amendment No. 302ZB: Page 94, line 9, at end insert: ("( ) Any person subject to any duty imposed by subsection (1) or (2) above shall in discharging their obligations under those provisions comply with the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 in relation to the protection of species and areas of special scientific interest").

The noble Lord said: For the most part, litter has a damaging effect on wildlife. Glass can cause destructive fires, nylon twine can entangle birds, discarded bottles and sharp objects can cause animals to be killed or injured. However, too rigorous a policy of litter control could be a danger to wildlife interests and operate against the intent of nature conservation legislation. There are three main ways in which this can happen.

First, there is the potential disturbance to breeding birds. The Wildlife and Countryside Act prohibits the disturbance of certain particularly vulnerable bird species while they are nestbuilding, are near or on a nest containing eggs and young. Litter collection in the vicinity of the nests of such birds during the breeding season could cause them to desert the nest. The types of birds most at risk from disturbance caused by litter collection are two types of sea bird; namely, little terns and roseate terns. These are colonial beach-nesting species for which the United Kingdom has international obligations under the EC Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds.

Secondly, there is the fact that some objects which we may think of as litter are used by some animals as places for shelter and protection. Discarded planks of wood, concrete slabs and sheets of corrugated iron are used by some of our most endangered amphibians and reptiles. For example, the natterjack toad, the sand lizard and the smooth snake use such places of shelter. That is because in many of the places where these creatures live, in the sandy areas near coasts or on heathland, there may be little natural cover. Without such cover these animals may die from exposure or predation. For that reason they are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and it would be an offence to disturb or destroy their places of shelter and protection.

The Nature Conservancy Council frequently has to advise public authorities how best to reconcile the interests of public amenity and wildlife. For example, at Millom in Cumbria the local authority wished to tidy up litter in a pond used by natterjack toads. Agreement was reached on the replacement of this by more attractive materials which served the same natural habitat function.

Thirdly, the activity of litter removal could lead to damage to sensitive habitats. These may well have been notified as sites of special scientific interest by the Nature Conservancy Council. I have in mind, for example, the removal of discarded wood or other litter from ponds. This might mean that the sensitive marsh around the pond's edge would be damaged in the process. If vehicles are used to help clear up litter that could lead to damage to the land surface in the process. It can also damage or destroy rare and protected wild plants.

The sort of problem that has arisen is the use by local authorities of bulldozers in beach cleaning. At Birkdale this was threatening to destroy the development of the scientifically important dune system; a problem, I am glad to say, that has now been satisfactorily resolved.

In our wish to see a clean and tidy environment we should not place at risk part of our wildlife heritage. The effect of the amendment is simply to oblige the duty organisations, when carrying out their obligations in the collection of litter, to do so in a manner which is in accordance with the provisions of the existing legislation which protects vulnerable species and special habitats. This amendment will cause them little additional trouble and is vital in the protection of some of our most endangered animals and plants. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

Clause 86 puts a new duty on local authorities and certain other bodies and landowners to keep their public land clear of litter and refuse. Amendment No. 302ZB would require any person carrying out that duty to comply with the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as far as it concerns the protection of species and areas of special scientific interest.

I respectfully suggest to my noble friend Lord Norrie that his amendment is unnecessary. As far as the litter provisions are concerned, this Bill works in parallel with the Wildlife and Countryside Act and does not conflict with it in any way. Any litter clearing which is necessary as a result of the duty would have to be carried out in compliance with any other relevant Act of Parliament. Therefore, if in the course of carrying out its duty a body contravened any part of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981—not only those provisions relating to the protection of species and SSSIs—then it would be liable to prosecution under that Act. It is not necessary to specify this on the face of the Bill and I therefore urge my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Norrie

I am grateful to my noble friend for his reply. I shall read carefully what he said in Hansard and for the moment I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 86, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 87 [Litter control areas]:

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 302A: Page 94, line 35, after ("order") insert ("after consultation with organisations representative of principal litter authorities").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is in the name of my noble friend Lord McIntosh. It seeks to require consultation with local authorities representing litter authorities before the Secretary of State uses his powers under Clause 87(1), which deals with litter control.

The question raised by the amendment concerns the relationship between the power of the Secretary of State to prescribe descriptions of land as litter control areas and the power of principal litter authorities, under subsection (3), to designate any land in their areas to be within an LCA. Issues of timing possibly overlap, and the purposes of such designations were all raised by this sparsely written clause.

The effect of the designation of the litter control area is seen, for example, in Clause 88(1)(g) where it is effectively a category of land or various types of relevant land in respect of which an individual may complain to a magistrates' court.

We have tabled this probing amendment to establish what is in the Government's mind when using their powers under Clause 87(1). I beg to move.

The Earl of Balfour

I support the noble Lord, Lord Graham, on this amendment. I had a meeting with the environmental health officer in my area of Scotland in regard to the provisions of this Bill. He particularly asked me to say, "please may we have discussions with the Government before they make up their mind?" I did not give my noble friend notice that I would be raising this important point but I hope that he will take it on board.

Lord Reay

Amendment No. 302A would require my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to consult the local authority associations before issuing an order prescribing the types of land which can be designated as litter control areas. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Graham, that the Secretary of State has every intention of consulting not only those organisations but also those bodies which might be affected in having their land designated as a litter control area.

Examples of bodies that will be consulted, or are being consulted, are the Retail Consortium, the British Property Federation, the Country Landowners' Association, the National Trust, and the Association of British Chambers of Commerce. We feel that it would be invidious to list on the face of the Bill local authority associations and not the other bodies that we are consulting. Therefore, I suggest that the noble Lord's amendment is both unnecessary and too partial. I urge him to withdraw it.

7 p.m

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I appreciate what the Minister has said. There are a great number of people to be consulted. On mature reflection it may be that the need for consultation is covered by the various organisations that have been mentioned. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 87 agreed to.

Clause 88 [Summary proceedings by persons aggrieved by litter]:

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 302B: Page 95, line 33, at end insert "or any trunk road which is a special road").

The noble Lord said: This is a technical amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 303: Page 95, line 40, leave out ("seven") and insert ("five").

The noble Lord said: This is a slightly larger technical amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 303A: Page 96, line 26, leave out from ("proceedings") to end of line and insert ("the magistrates shall apply such a provision").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord McIntosh. It deals with the relationship between abatement orders and the code of practice before magistrates' courts. This is a probing amendment, the effect of which is to make the provisions of the code effectively statutory in their application by magistrates' courts. Under Clause 88(11) as drafted, the court is only required to take into account the provisions of the code.

The question at issue here is the standard that magistrates' courts will apply in deciding whether abatement notices should be issued under Clause 88(6). The reality is probably that the standards will be as numerous as the magistrates' courts. We are all familiar with the situation where an offence is committed and the magistrates hear the case. In 10 different magistrates' courts the same offence can be heard and there may be six or seven different penalties. We are seeking here to say that in this instance it shall be the application, adherence to or variation from the code of practice that shall be used as the standard. I beg to move.

Lord Reay

We are concerned in Clause 88 with the question of how the magistrates' courts interpret the duty placed on local authorities and others under Part IV of the Bill. It is a key feature of these provisions that the active citizen should have a simple means of ensuring that public bodies carry out their litter duty without having to resort to the complex and expensive route of High Court action. But, equally, we need to ensure that those under the duty are not subjected to unreasonable or vexatious actions by over-zealous local residents. That is why we have built in various measures, such as the requirement for a period of notification before action is taken, to try to maintain the balance between the two parties. The requirement in Clause 88 that the courts must take into account the provisions of the code of practice where they appear relevant in any proceedings is one such case.

We have inserted this provision within Part IV in order to ensure that the court has some guidance on how to interpret the duty on local authorities and others to keep their land clear of litter and refuse. As Members of the Committee are aware, those under the duty have to have regard to a code of practice setting out, inter alia, standards of performance. It would be unfortunate if a court entirely ignored the provisions of the code and formulated its own ideas on what the duty should mean. Neither party—applicant or defendant—would know where they stood.

Amendment No. 303A would go further and would require the court to apply the strict letter of the code whatever the circumstances of the case. We have deliberately been more circumspect in providing that the court must take the code into account in cases where it appears relevant. This formulation is intended to cater for cases where the circumstances do not fit precisely with those which we had in mind in drafting the code. The impact of unforeseeable events like the major storms of this past winter are a case in point. For example, storms might make it impossible to meet the standards set. Both the bodies under the duty and potential applicants to the courts stand to benefit from this more flexible approach. I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw this amendment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I withdraw the amendment. I am bound to tell the Minister that in practice there are likely to be illustrations thrown up which will bring the application of the law into ridicule and disrepute. At least we are on record as trying to prevent the Government suffering that fate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Hesketh moved Amendment No. 304: Page 96, line 48, at end insert: ("and any person against whom proceedings are brought may appeal on a point of law to the Court of Session against the making of a litter abatement order.").

The noble Lord said: This is a technical amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 88, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Reay

I beg to move that the House do now resume. In doing so, I propose that we do not return to this business before five minutes past eight.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.