Deposit-return Scheme

2. Questions to the Counsel General – in the Senedd at on 21 May 2024.

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Photo of Rhys ab Owen Rhys ab Owen Plaid Cymru

(Translated)

4. What advice has the Counsel General provided to the Welsh Government regarding the UK Government’s intention to use its powers under the United Kingdom Internal Market Act to block glass from being included in the deposit return scheme? OQ61136

Photo of Mick Antoniw Mick Antoniw Labour 3:06, 21 May 2024

Thank you for your question. The Welsh Government remains of the view that the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 is offensive to Wales as it seeks to severely undermine the powers of the democratically elected Senedd. The issues with the deposit-return scheme are yet another example of the problems with this piece of legislation.

Photo of Rhys ab Owen Rhys ab Owen Plaid Cymru 3:07, 21 May 2024

Diolch, Cwnsler Cyffredinol. I agree with you and agree with what Huw Irranca-Davies wrote last month in his written statement that this is another example of misuse of the internal market Act by the Westminster Government. Devolution should allow us to explore new ideas, but the UK Government doesn’t seem to share this aspiration for Wales. Instead, something as simple as including glass in a recycling scheme is turned into a political football. It’s a shame that the deposit-return scheme had to be delayed by the Welsh Government until 2027 in order to match the UK Government’s timeline, especially when we really do need to encourage recycling now more than ever; waterways are being polluted with rubbish, beaches are tainted with plastics and the smell of landfill is harming people’s health, as Paul Davies raised recently with regard to the Withyhedge landfill site. Therefore, will the Welsh Government be considering legal action in the event that a deposit-return scheme is blocked by the UK Government? Diolch.

Photo of Mick Antoniw Mick Antoniw Labour 3:08, 21 May 2024

Again, thank you for your question. The issue of legal action—I’ll take that last point first—of course, is one where we took legal action and, of course, we had the single-use plastics legislation that went forward and, of course, the UK Government chose not to challenge that. I think it upheld, de facto, our position in respect of the supremacy of our constitutional statutes over the internal market Act, which is the issue between us, that it does not have the capacity to change the core constitutional protected legislation.

Now, on this particular issue, in terms of the deposit-return scheme, well, of course, our policy is to introduce a deposit-return scheme. The problem with it is that the UK Government have appointed themselves as judge and jury for the internal market Act, which is not how you would achieve effective regulation of a single market. As you know, we have common frameworks that have been achieved and arrived at through co-operation between the four nations of the UK, and the problem with the internal market Act is that it enables UK Government to drive a coach and horses through that.

Now, agreement had actually been reached with the UK Government in terms of the inclusion of a glass deposit-return scheme. It was agreed between the nations. Scotland, in fact, was very advanced in the implementation of that, but it was the UK Government that, having agreed a common way of moving forward on this, chose to diverge from what had been a collectively agreed position that had been consulted upon.

So, our preference remains for a fully aligned scheme across the UK, as previously agreed. However, we note the threat that the UK Government have made to repeat their actions in bringing down the scheme in Scotland by using the internal market Act to restrict our ability to go further and impose a watered-down deposit-return scheme. I think that misusing the internal market Act to stop Welsh Government and other Governments from bringing forward an effective deposit-return scheme, which would have been very much within competence, is something that is extremely unfortunate. We are intending to go forward with this; there is still work that is ongoing. There are certainly benefits from a deposit-return scheme. It does make it much more difficult with the position that the UK Government have taken in respect of England, and, obviously, this is a matter that remains, as I said, under consideration.