The debate about the use of criminal sanctions for failure to comply with household waste disposal rules has been reignited in a debate on the Deregulation Bill at the House of Commons.
The Bill proposes changes which will allow local authorities to impose fines of between £60 and £80 if household waste is not presented properly or causes a nuisance, but will drop the availability of the criminal sanctions that are currently possible.
However, in a debate on the Bill, the changes came under attack from Chris Williamson, Labour MP for Derby North, who said the there was “limited evidence, if any, for a legislative proposition”.
Clause 29 of the Bill proposes changes to the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which currently states that householders can face fines of up to £1,000 and a criminal conviction if they present waste in a specified way.
Deputy leader of the House of Commons and Liberal Decomcrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington Tom Brake said that it was wrong to treat someone like a criminal for making such a mistake and that the sanctions were disproportionate.
“Our proposals do not impose significant new burdens on local authorities,” he said. “Many authorities already work with residents and educate them if they are having such problems. The clause provides clarity on the process local authorities will need to follow when pursuing civil sanctions.
“It also amends the law to recognise the difference between someone who makes a genuine mistake that his little impact and someone whose behaviour damages their local neighbourhood.”
However Williamson said the existing laws were only for extreme circumstances. “If the Government are serious about promoting recycling and ensuring that we get recycling levels up, I wonder why they feel it necessary to embark on this legislative change when there is no evidence that local authorities are abusing the powers that are currently vested in them,” he said.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has already said that it is against the proposed changes, highlighting the amount of effort that councils put into educating households and business about recycling and waste.
In its submission on the draft Bill, the LGA said: “The current system functions well and existing powers are used only in extreme circumstances. Their predominant value is as a deterrent. There is no evidence that these powers are being used disproportionately and the LGA does not therefore see an evidence-based reason to change the system.”
CIWM has also previously expressed concern about the government wants to abolish the criminal offence and replace it with a civil sanction.
An amendment relating to another part of the Bill also raised concern during the debate about incentives for greener energy in the wake of a drop in feed in tariffs.
However the Renewable Energy Association (REA) said that although the proposed amendment to the Planning and Energy Act 2008, removed power from local government to set energy efficiency standards for new buildings it still allowed them to specify the sourcing of energy from on-site renewable technologies, such as solar panels, or connected renewable heat network, such as biomass, geothermal or energy-from-waste technologies.
“This means local authorities can continue to specify the inclusion of renewable energy in new homes, helping reduce energy bills and carbon footprints for their occupants,” the REA said.