HC Deb 13 March 2003 vol 401 cc422-3W
Norman Baker

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made or plans of the effectiveness of fines levied by local authorities on polluters preventing(a) further incidences of pollution by the polluters and (b) incidences of pollution from others who have not previously polluted; what changes are planned; and if he will make a statement. [99257]

Mr. Meacher

I have been asked to reply.

Part 1 of the Environment Protection Act 1990 specifies that fines be levied by courts and not by the local enforcing authority. The authority may however bring proceedings against the accused in a Court of Law.

No assessment has yet been made of the preventive effect of fines levied against environmental offenders. My Department takes the view that the level of fines being imposed for pollution offences is generally too low. We are now working with the Environment Agency and with others, especially the Magistrates Association, to ensure that magistrates are trained and have an increased awareness of the implications of polluting activity and consequently impose more realistic fines. To this end, the Association recently circulated relevant training material to all its 28,000 members.

The Government are also exploring the possibility of developing general guidelines on sentencing for environmental offences. To this end, my Department has recently commissioned research to examine penalties for environmental offences and to aim to establish a solid body of information, which could be used as a basis for future action. The research team is due to report in the summer.