A private member's Bill to give extra powers to local authorities in England and Wales to crack down and prosecute companies and individuals transporting and dumping waste illegally was given an unopposed first reading.
Introduced by Joan Ruddock, Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford, the Waste Bill was sponsored by MPs from all major parties. It would amend the Control of Pollution (Amendment) Act 1989 - itself originally introduced by Ms Ruddock - and Part II of the Environmental Protection Act.
'Regulating waste and tackling environmental crime are high priorities for the Environment Agency, which has done much to deal with both problems over the past decade. However, in respect of fly-tipping, experience now suggests that there would be considerable benefit if local authorities could exercise some of the powers currently available to the Environment Agency. That is the purpose of the Bill', she explained.
Fly-tipping was defined as 'the unlawful deposit of waste without a waste management licence or registered exemption'. The Bill applied to individuals or companies with a duty of care to see that people who carried waste commercially were registered and did not dispose of it illegally.
Ms Ruddock said no precise figures were available for the volume of waste fly-tipped or removed. The Environment Agency estimated that removing fly-tipped waste costs it£500,000 a year. By contrast, a recent LGA survey of fly-tipping indicated that estimated costs of clean-ups to English and Welsh local authorities was£25m. It found that 94% of the 128 authorities responded had recorded fly-tipping incidents, with 20% recording more than 1,000 incidents.
Furthermore, said Ms Ruddock, 84% believed local authorities did not have sufficient powers to deal with fly-tipping, and 97% supported a change in regulations.
Lewisham and Newham LBCs were the first local authorities to have public service agreements aimed at reducing fly-tipping. They were ready to pilot the new powers proposed in the Bill, said Ms Ruddock.
The Bill would give local authorities to serve notices requiring waste carriers to produce documents and to extend the offence of failing to comply with the requirement. It would also extend the power to carry out roadside checks and allow the imposition of fixed penalties for failing to produce authority to transport controlled waste.
Ms Ruddock said the stretched resources of the Environment Agency meant it did not use all the powers given to it by parliament a decade ago. She added: 'The advent of CCTV and the willingness of residents to report fly-tippers means that local authorities can often identify offending vehicles. They are much better placed than the Environment Agency to stop a fly-tipper in transit or to spot a suspect vehicle on their patch'.
Hansard 30 Apr 2002: Column 813-815