Environmental Protection

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:16 pm on 15th June 2020.

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Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 7:16 pm, 15th June 2020

We are well aware of that and will let the hon. Gentleman know in due course when the Bill will be back, because we are all very keen to get on with it; he is absolutely right about that, and the commitment is fully still there.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned local authorities. Local authorities will inspect the businesses to check that they are following the regulations. They will be able to visit shops or stalls, make test purchases, speak to staff and demand records, and they will be given the full range of civil sanctions in order to ensure compliance, including powers such as being able to issue compliance and stop notices, as well as the ability to impose fines. They will also be obliged to publish guidance, because they will be the regulator, and we will give draft guidance before that comes into force. I hope that clarifies that.

The hon. Gentleman touched on targets, which was a bit naughty, because he moved away from the essence of the statutory instrument. I am surprised that he was not caught out, Madam Deputy Speaker, but he is new, so you were being very lenient. I just wanted to reiterate that, through the Environment Bill, we have put in place a whole process in which the targets are set, checked and then rechecked. I believe the whole system is very strong. We also have milestones in the resources and waste strategy, which sets recycling targets for packaging. All packaging will be recyclable by 2025. The hon. Gentleman talked about bringing back washable cutlery. I washed a spoon today by the way. Perhaps, we should go down that road—good suggestion.

I just wish to touch on a few comments from some other colleagues. My right hon. Friend Theresa Villiers, who, of course, has done so much work on this agenda, fully understands and appreciates how committed the Government are to this agenda and how we are introducing this strategy to reduce waste, to recycle, to repair and to reuse. I reiterate that all packaging will be recyclable by 2025. In particular, she mentioned the extension to the carrier bag charge. We have consulted, as she knows, on extending the charge to all retailers and increasing the minimum charge to 10p, and the Government’s response will be issued shortly. We have, of course, had a slightly different few months than we expected with the coronavirus, so we have had to allow people doing doorstep deliveries still to use carrier bags, but a charge is still being made in store, if one goes in store to do the shopping. That extension will be coming forward shortly.

I wish now to thank my hon. Friend Steve Double, who is no longer in his place, for all his work on ocean conservation. He is absolutely right that these things affect Cornwall and its wonderful coast, and he is very passionate about his work. He welcomed the regulations, which I am very pleased about. He touched on sky lanterns, which are regulated by the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 and enforced by local authority trading standards and, as such, the local authorities could ban the release of them. Sky lanterns have recently sometimes been let off to thank our workers in the NHS. We should all be thanking them, but I plead with people not to let off sky lanterns, because they are a danger to nature and wildlife. With it being so dry, we have also had a lot of wildfires.

Finally, I thank Mr Carmichael for his support for the regulations, although I remind him that this and all other environmental issues are devolved. Scotland has banned plastics and cotton buds, but it has not yet decided what to do about straws, and we are waiting to hear what it will do.

In summary, in order for us to leave the environment in a better state than we found it for the next generation, it is essential that we have the right legislation in place that will have an impact on our effect on the natural world. Plastics are causing incontrovertible harm to the marine and terrestrial environment, and we need to act now. These measures are an important part of our wider strategy to tackle plastic pollution. They will serve as an important marker to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics and I commend them to the House.

Question put and agreed to.


That the draft Environmental Protection (Plastic Straws, Cotton Buds and Stirrers) (England) Regulations 2020, which were laid before this House on 19 May, be approved.