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Volume 460: debated on Tuesday 22 May 2007

12. What support or guidance her Department gives to maternity units to give new mothers access to reusable or biodegradable nappies. (138347)

It is for individual national health service hospitals and trusts in England to determine the practicalities of promoting the use of reusable and disposable nappies in their maternity units. For the rest of the United Kingdom, that would be a matter for the devolved Administrations.

I thank the Under-Secretary for his response. Having just become a new mum, I am keenly aware of the special access that manufacturers of disposable nappies have to new mums when they are in hospital. Given nappies’ contribution to landfill, will he look at ways to level the playing field, and will he at least encourage samples of biodegradable and reusable nappies to be made available in hospitals? Once people start using a product, they are more likely to continue using it.

We have to be careful not to encourage too much of a nappy state. We give first-time mothers a pregnancy book and a birth to five book, both of which discuss in some detail the case for and against each kind of nappy. It has to be said that a report by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found that, in the end, in terms of overall environmental consequences, there was very little difference between disposable and reusable nappies. I understand that the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), is happy to host a meeting with the Nappy Alliance to discuss the matter further.