Environment Bill - Committee (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:00 pm on 5th July 2021.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 3:00 pm, 5th July 2021

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in support of our amendments. As I said in my opening remarks, there is already considerable evidence from Europe that deposit return schemes drive up recycling levels of bottles and cans and thereby cut back on litter and landfill. That point was echoed by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, among others. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, rightly highlighted the success of Germany and the fact that it has been organised on a unitary basis across the German state—there are lessons to be learned from that.

The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, latterly put the question about the affluent and the less affluent. It is true that, once you put a small value on an empty bottle, people will be less inclined casually to throw it away, and even if some individual cannot be bothered to collect the deposit, there will always be others who will pick it up for that reason. However you go about it, it will undoubtedly reduce levels of litter and drive up recycling.

I agree, of course, with the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, and others that what we need is an all-in scheme for it to be really successful.

There is no reason why this scheme cannot be operational by 1 January 2023. Indeed, there could be perverse consequences if Scotland had such a scheme ahead of other nations. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, said that England has become a world leader in foot-dragging, and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, said that England is becoming a laggard, and I agree with both of those sentiments. I think that we all agree that a united scheme across the four nations is the way to go, but we cannot expect Scotland to hang around while we make our minds up about this, so we have to move at pace and move together.

I thought the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, made a sensible point about deposit fees having to vary with the size of the container. I understand some of the complexities around that, but we need to make sure that we are not incentivising a switch to plastic that might otherwise occur.

The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, raised the issue of small producers and small breweries, and I agree that there need to be arrangements for start-ups and new businesses. There are, of course, many small drinks companies bringing new products on to the market—indeed, many of them are promoting healthy drinks. I am not convinced that small breweries need a special exemption, but I understand the point he makes. Of course, the scheme is not intended to place an extra burden on small businesses, and we have all said that it needs to be simple and straightforward to administer. I would have thought that all those companies—the breweries and other small producers—would welcome schemes that prevent their empty containers becoming litter or landfill just as much as anyone else. I remind noble Lords—some of us have been around for rather a long time—that we had bottle deposit schemes in the past, so in a sense this is nothing new.

I listened carefully to the Minister’s response, but nothing he said explains why we cannot have a DRS by 1 January 2023, and I disagree that he is on target to meet the Conservative manifesto commitment on this. Businesses have known that this is coming for some time; we have had time to make the transition, and there is still time within the next 18 months to complete that transition. The Minister also talked about Schedule 8, but the problem, as with all those schedules, is that it is not specific; it is just enabling. It does not guarantee anything. It just says that these things “may”—going back to our famous word—happen.

I will, therefore, reflect on the Minister’s comments, but I hope he has heard the strength of feeling around the Chamber today: people want action on this, and they want it quickly. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 133 withdrawn.

Amendments 133A to 138A not moved.

Schedule 8 agreed.

Clause 54 agreed.

Schedule 9: Charges for single use plastic items

Amendment 139 not moved.

Schedule 9 agreed.

Clause 55 agreed.

Amendments 140 to 141A not moved.

Clause 56: Separation of waste

Amendments 142 to 145 not moved.