Amendment 34

Part of Environment Bill - Report (2nd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 9:45 pm on 8th September 2021.

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Photo of Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) 9:45 pm, 8th September 2021

I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate.

I begin with Amendment 125, proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. We are very much aware of the environmental issues associated with absorbent hygiene products—which makes them sound a lot nicer—including those relating to incorrect disposal. We recognise the importance of the issue and have commissioned an independent environmental assessment of the relative impact of washable and disposable nappies. With that research added to the evidence base, as well as the powers in the Bill to make secondary legislation, we will be in a good position to take action where necessary and appropriate. I assure the noble Baroness that this includes action along the lines set out in her amendment.

I also assure the noble Baroness that the powers we are seeking through the Bill will allow us, among other things, to set standards for nappies and introduce labelling requirements. We will be able to mandate product labels to require specific information about products such as nappies; for example, regarding their environmental impact or how best to dispose of them. We will also be able to introduce a requirement for products to have marks or symbols signifying that they meet certain standards.

Briefly, in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, on a point also made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, new guidance to be produced shortly by the Competition and Markets Authority will address issues relating to environmental claims. That, we hope, will help business to both understand and comply with its existing obligations under consumer protection law.

I turn to Amendment 35, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. I reassure noble Lords that the powers he is asking for in his amendment are already covered by the powers set out in Schedule 6. In fact, it is fair to say that the powers in the Bill are broader than the amendment specifies; for example, we are able to regulate how information might be provided. I agree that it is essential for labelling to be consistent, simple, clear and understandable, and that will be a central consideration as we develop and introduce regulations.

I end by agreeing and very much empathising with the frustration expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. Like all my colleagues in Defra, we want this work to happen very quickly. There is an unavoidable process but we are pushing as hard as we can. I hope that I have managed to reassure noble Lords that the Government are aware of the environmental issues associated with absorbent hygiene products as well as the importance of clear, consistent labelling regimes. That is why we have included powers in the Bill to tackle those specific issues. I ask noble Lords to not move their amendments.