Amendment 34

Part of Environment Bill - Report (2nd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 8th September 2021.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 9:30 pm, 8th September 2021

My Lords, I am grateful to those noble Lords who have spoken in this debate at this late hour. First, we support the Government’s amendments that the Minister has introduced, and we are grateful to him for his meeting on some of these subjects.

Secondly, I have every sympathy with Amendment 35 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, which would require

“clear, consistent and validated labelling” on goods to ensure that consumers can make informed choices and care for their purchases in the most energy-efficient ways. He has given some excellent examples of the challenges consumers currently face with competing styles and content of labels. In particular, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, drew attention to the criteria for labelling which already exist in the United Nations Environment Programme and Consumers International.

In his response to a similar debate in Committee, the Minister said:

“The precise design of future labels or other means of communicating product information will be subject to further policy development, including evidence gathering, analysis and consultation.”—[Official Report, 30/6/21; col. 880.]

In his follow-up letter, he set out how the Government were looking closely at how best to enable consumers to make more sustainable purchasing decisions. I simply say to the Minister that there is some urgency in getting on with this work. I hope that if, as we have heard, standard labelling systems are already available on an international level, we will take the opportunity to embrace those standards and apply those lessons, rather than creating a whole new system from scratch.

Finally, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, for once again raising the important issue of single-use nappy waste, the need for incentives for individuals to use reusable nappies, the need for a better campaign to inform users of the environmental damage caused by disposable nappies and the ready availability of eco-friendly alternatives. As we have heard, there are some shocking statistics about the adverse impact of millions of disposable nappies on the environment. They are being dumped in huge quantities into landfill and being misplaced into recyclable waste streams, where they contaminate whole batches of otherwise recyclable materials. As the noble Baroness rightly said, there is considerable misinformation among parents about the content of nappies and how they should be disposed of. We agree that there is a need for a huge information campaign and a cultural shift in attitudes, as well as help for those who cannot afford reusable nappies in the first place.

In the Committee debate, the Minister made it clear that Defra is taking this issue seriously, both by taking powers in the Bill to act and by commissioning an environmental assessment of the waste and energy impacts of washable and disposable products. I say to him simply that those actions cannot come soon enough and I hope he is hearing the strength of feeling and unanimity of noble Lords who have contributed to this debate.