Fast Fashion

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons on 25th July 2019.

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Photo of Mary Creagh Mary Creagh Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

What plans the Government have to reduce the (a) environmental and (b) social impact of fast fashion.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Government will be working through the Waste and Resources Action Programme and with industry on developing an ambitious new phase of the sustainable clothing action plan. We are planning to develop regulatory standards and labels to support durable, repairable and recyclable products; consult on an extended producer responsibility scheme; and support innovation in textile recycling. We are also increasing the transparency of reporting required on modern slavery, and continuing to prioritise the enforcement of national minimum wage legislation.

Photo of Mary Creagh Mary Creagh Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

I welcome the Secretary of State to her place, but the announcements she has just made will not go far enough to tackle the fast fashion epidemic, which is being promoted by shows such as “Love Island”. It may be bikini weather outside, but when bikinis are being sold for £1 on fast fashion websites, it is clear that workers are not getting what they need. When is she going to bring in extended producer responsibility and ban clothing from landfill?

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

First, I very much look forward to working with the hon. Lady’s Environmental Audit Committee on these and other matters. I very much hope to appear in front of the members of her Committee when there is time in their diary.

The hon. Lady raises very important points. I think there is real consensus across the House that we need action. The Government have a credible plan, which we are delivering. As I said in response to earlier questions, we need to ensure that we get this right. I can assure her that we will be moving towards solutions on these problems in response to public concern.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

Does the Secretary of State agree with me that fashion provides very important livelihoods for people in low-income countries around the world? As we, rightly, address the question of sustainability, we must never throw away their livelihoods, which are so important. In fact, we must seek to ensure that those livelihoods are improved.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

With all these matters, our goal should be to pursue both prosperity and environmental sustainability at the same time. My hon. Friend makes a very valid point that in taking forward our new regulatory structures to tackle this problem, we must also take into account the impact on developing countries and the interests of people on low incomes.

Photo of Sue Hayman Sue Hayman Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I welcome the Secretary of State to her place. As we have heard, fast fashion has a negative impact on our environment. The Secretary of State mentioned environmental sustainability, but she repeatedly voted against measures to protect the environment and tackle climate change. How can we trust her to deliver the transformative change that we need to tackle the climate and environmental emergency we all face? Will she confirm that net zero is still the Government’s target, and if so, will she commit to taking the necessary steps that she previously voted against?

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I do not know whose voting record the hon. Lady has been looking at, but it does not sound like mine. The Government are doing more on climate change than ever before, and we are one of the first developed countries in the world to commit to the net zero target—not something that our Labour predecessors were prepared to do. I have backed, with enthusiasm, a succession of vital measures taken by the Government—for example, to ensure that more of our electricity is generated by renewables than ever before.