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Environment Bill comes under fire

The Conservatives were gunning for the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill this week.

The Bill proposes new powers for local authorities to remove abandoned cars from the streets and tackle fly-tipping.

Shadow Environment Secretary Tim Yeo accused the Government of "cobbling together a hotchpotch of measures".

He added: "We are voting against the Bill because we do not think that the remedies proposed are likely to be particularly effective. We also suspect that the burden that the Bill will place on local authorities will not be matched by any accompanying funding."

However, Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett insisted that the Bill would not create extra costs for local authorities, explaining that the Government was proposing powers, not duties, to deal with anti-social behaviour and waste.

She added: "I have little doubt that, unless local authorities believe that the exercise of such powers will be cost-effective, they will not choose to do so."

The Bill gives local authorities the power to apply fixed penalties for offences such as leaving household waste out for collection on the wrong day. For the first time, councils would be able to retain all the money from such fines.

Beckett pointed out that the receipt of fines would help local authorities fund their assault on environmental crime.

Yeo said that the new powers presented in the Bill would, far from helping councils, bring them into conflict with police and other authorities currently dealing with issues such as abandoned vehicles.

However, the Conservatives failed to prevent a second reading and MPs voted 345 to 153 in favour of the Bill being handed to an all-parliamentary standing committee for consideration.

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