HC Deb 17 September 2003 vol 410 cc807-8W
Mr. Ivan Henderson

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what initiatives his Department has introduced since 1997 to tackle the problems of graffiti. [1296941

Ms Blears

Graffiti and abandoned vehicles spoil our enjoyment of public places, and can increase fear of crime and produce an environment where crime and anti-social behaviour can thrive. They are a burden on businesses and the local authorities that are left to clean up graffiti on property and remove abandoned vehicles. The annual cost of graffiti clean up in London alone is £23 million.

We are introducing a package or measures to prevent graffiti and to ensure that it is removed swiftly when it does occur: The Anti-Social Behaviour Bill contains proposals to give local authorities new powers to clean graffiti from certain types of private property, including cable boxes, post boxes, phone booths, and property associated with public transport. The Bill also contains proposals to ban the sale of spray paints to under 19s. The sale of aerosols will be controlled in much the same way that the sale of glue and solvent are currently controlled. The bill also proposes to give local authorities power to issue Fixed Penalty Notices for graffiti and fly posting. Offenders would have to pay a £50 penalty or be prosecuted through the courts. Councils already use these powers to tackle littering. The Criminal Justice Bill contains measures to close the loophole which prevents the police from searching for items which they suspect may be intended for use in causing criminal damage, such as spray paints.

It is estimated that 238,000 vehicles were abandoned in 2000–01. These nuisance vehicles become a magnet for arson and anti-social behaviour. Measures introduced to tackle this problem include: In 2002 the period of notice that local authorities and the DVLA need to give before removing and disposing of nuisance vehicles was reduced. Local authorities now only need to give 24 hours notice of their intention to remove an abandoned vehicle of value. Abandoned vehicles of no value can be removed to a pound immediately—and local authorities now only need to wait seven days before disposing of them. We also made it possible for local authorities to take on DVLA powers to tackle unlicensed vehicles. Continuous registration comes into to force from January 2004. From then, the keeper of a vehicle will be responsible for licensing it until DVLA is informed of its disposal. This will enable more rigorous enforcement action against those dumping vehicles. There is a lot of good practice already taking place. The "Operation Cubit" model brings together agencies such as the police, local authorities and the DVLA to take action in an area blighted by nuisance vehicles. We will be looking in the coming months at how best to rollout these successes, in the context of our anti-social behaviour agenda.