Amendment 34

Part of Environment Bill - Report (2nd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 8th September 2021.

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Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Chair, EU Environment Sub-Committee, Chair, EU Environment Sub-Committee 9:15 pm, 8th September 2021

My Lords, the last time I spoke at this Report stage was on Monday, when we were talking about very macro issues around the emergencies of biodiversity and climate change. Those are really important, and I was very glad that the House saw that. However, we all know as well that the minutiae—the micro side—of how this Bill’s provisions are delivered are equally crucial to its success.

We also know that, on extended producer responsibility, the circular economy and making consumers fully informed about what they want to do and how they can make the right decisions for the environment they live in, those small issues are really important to make this Act—as it will be—a success in terms of its delivery.

So the reason I tabled this amendment—and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, for her support in this—is a very practical one: to make sure that when consumers see products, they are able to judge easily, straightforwardly and instantly in terms of a purchase decision—or a longer-term investment in other consumer goods—that they are making the right decision for the environment. Quite frankly, this amendment just states the obvious: to make sure that labelling within this country is single, straightforward and obvious and that consumers recognise it and act upon it. It does not ask that there is some sort of sham competitiveness in this area but that there is a single labelling scheme which is world class, as the Minister would want it to be; that it is clear, concise and consistent; and that labelling is the same whichever shop, retailer or e-commerce site you go to, so that it can be understood more and more as time goes on.

I tabled a similar amendment in Committee, and the Minister was sort of sympathetic but did not really say that this is what the Government saw. To me, it is obvious that this has to be the case. We know from the examples of energy efficiency labelling, and I think I used the example of how you wash your clothes in a washing machine, that those are the sorts of labels that people get to know and understand over time. It is in that way that we make sure that consumers and citizens who want the right thing for the environment are able to make the right choices.

This idea is not exactly a clever one, but it is very much supported by Which?, consumer associations and—my goodness—manufacturers, because it has to make sense. On that basis, I hope the Minister can give greater reassurance from the Dispatch Box—I will not take this to a vote; no way am I going to do that—that we are going to have consistency, transparency and the ability to enable consumers, as I said, to make the right choice for the environment through this system. I am sure that is what the Government want. What we do not want is the alternative: a shopper going into one high street shop and seeing one sort of labelling system, and then going on to an e-commerce site and seeing another. That does not make sense. We do not understand that. This is not an area where we should have competition; it is an area where we should have one excellence that meets those criteria.

I could not agree more with the government amendments. When I was a board member of the Marine Management Organisation, I was absolutely clear that these areas should be self-financing, in being able to reclaim costs, which I understand is part of the rationale behind the government amendments. Unfortunately, that was rejected during the passage of the Fisheries Act, but never mind. The amendment on nappies, from the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, is on the similar theme of consumer information and in an area that we have all experienced in life, but one in which the volume and effect is huge, as the noble Baroness illustrated in Committee. It is on the similar theme of making sure that consumers understand the impact of their purchasing decisions.