Clause 55 - Extension of Litter Authority Powers to take Remedial Action

Anti-social Behaviour Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:30 am ar 22 Mai 2003.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Ludlow 10:30, 22 Mai 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 182, in

clause 55, page 40, leave out lines 24 and 25.

This is a probing amendment. I have read the clause and schedule 3 a few times, and I am worried at what might be a double negative. I want the Minister's reassurance that the provision does not mean that local authorities can enter military installations to clean up litter, because we would not support that. In fact, I think that the Bill exempts military installations, which brings me to the more interesting question of whether the 1990 Act allowed local authorities to enter them. If it did, how often have they done so and why is the clause necessary?

As I said, this is a probing amendment. I am slightly confused and I am sure that the Minister will enjoy teasing me. None the less, I am intrigued by the provision.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Local authorities can currently issue a litter abatement notice requiring the owner of the land to clean it up. If the notice is ignored, they can enter the land themselves, clear it of litter, and recover the costs through the courts. However, an exemption prevents them from entering and clearing Crown land or the land of statutory undertakers, such as railways and port authorities. The clause removes that exemption.

It is important, however, on grounds of safety and national security, that Crown land occupied for armed forces purposes should remain exempt. The hon. Gentleman will see that authorities have not been entering military installations. The clause gives local authorities the ability to enter Crown land for the first time, but it exempts military land. The extension applied by the clause is, therefore, restricted.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Ceidwadwyr, Surrey Heath

The Minister is giving a helpful clarification. I did not speak to the amendment, because I wanted to hear what he had to say. However, I should tell him that I very much recognise that the Government are right to introduce the measure that is before us. My constituency has one of the largest proportions of military land of any in the country, because it contains huge military ranges. I certainly would not want local authority employees putting themselves at risk by going on to those ranges, where they might be in physical danger.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that.

Where a litter abatement notice is issued against Crown land occupied for armed forces purposes, the appropriate Crown authority is still under a duty to comply. Where the notice is ignored, we would expect the local authority to seek to persuade the military authorities to comply. Should they continue to fail to do so, there remains the possibility of a prosecution under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

I think that that explanation covers the concern raised by the hon. Gentleman, so I hope that he will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Ludlow

I thank the Minister for that. I tabled the amendment to find out whether what I called a double negative had the effect that I suggested. We welcome the fact that the Bill extends the powers to Crown land while exempting military installations. That is absolute common sense, and I am glad that the Minister explained why the provision was included. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 55 ordered to stand part of the Bill.