Councils given tougher powers to punish car litterbugs
Local councils have been given additional powers to crack down on people who throw litter out of car windows under new laws approved by peers.
The new laws would allow councils in England to issue a civil penalty to the keeper of a vehicle when litter is thrown from it even if they were not responsible for the littering.
The new rules were approved by peers yesterday (27 January). Home Office Minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach said that the subject of littering from vehicles had been discussed several times in the House of Lords in recent months.
He said that the House was united in “its displeasure at seeing litter along our roadsides, and at the thoughtless and uncaring behaviour of those inconsiderate individuals who left it there”.
The new powers given to councils would be on top of the current criminal offence, which can only be used when the person responsible is identified.
Tory backbench peer Lord Marlesford, who has led the calls for the Government to adopt the new power, has argued the criminal penalty is of limited use because it is often hard to find who was responsible for the littering.
Putting forward an amendment at the third reading of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, Lord Taylor said a provision could be made for an unpaid fixed penalty to be recovered as a civil debt.
Under the amendment, ministers will be able to bring in regulations introducing the new laws.
Lord Taylor said: "These powers are intended to make life easier for local authorities."
He added that it was important to ensure that the Government got the details of the scheme “right” to help meet local authorities’ needs in a way that the current regime of criminal sanctions for littering may not.
He explained: “For that reason, rather than rushing into detailed primary legislation in haste, Amendment 15 will place a duty on the Secretary of State to ensure that regulations address important matters such as the size of the fine, the form and content of the penalty notice, exceptions to the keeper’s liability—for example, if the vehicle has been stolen—and matters relating to representations and appeals. These are all matters on which we will want to seek local authorities’ and others’ views before bringing forward draft regulations for approval by both Houses.”
Congratulating Lord Marlesford on persuading the Government to adopt the proposals, Lord Taylor said: "All of us in this House share your views about the scourge of litter defacing our roads, towns and countryside.
"This new measure will enable us to give local authorities in England an additional power to tackle this anti-social behaviour."
Lord Marlesford said both Home Secretary Theresa May and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson backed the new powers.
He said: "This must be regarded as a real step in enabling us to add to the cleanliness of our streets and roads as a much needed and benevolent element of the national pride we all feel in the England we love."
Lord Marlesford also said: “We should also consider other methods of tackling this issue. I have in mind particularly the practice in a number of states in the USA, led originally by Oregon, whereby packaging is returnable through traders who pay a few cents to people who pick it up. That very simple system is carried out in a number of other places.”
He also thanked the environmental organisations Campaign to Protect Rural England and Keep Britain Tidy for their efforts in campaigning on the issue of car litter.
Both environmental organisations welcomed the new plans.
Keep Britain Tidy chief executive Phil Barton said: “I congratulate Lord Marlesford on his tenacity and we have been pleased to support his efforts to change the law to make it easier to crack down on littering from vehicles. Local authorities in England already spend £1bn in street cleaning and car litter is a considerable factor in this.
“People should take responsibility for their environment, locally and further afield. Just because you are on the move is no excuse for despoiling the area you’re driving through and leaving others to deal with your thoughtlessness.
“We hope that the proposals raised in the debate in the House will help reduce littering from vehicles and encourage people to take their litter home with them. Keep Britain Tidy will be closely following the further passage of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill. We expect the government to amend it in line with the assurances it gave to the House and then to introduce the new measure before the next election.”
The Bill has cleared the Lords and the littering proposals will now be considered by MPs.