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Single-use Plastic Waste

Volume 655: debated on Tuesday 5 March 2019

8. What fiscal steps he is taking to help reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste in the environment. (909579)

We are acting to tackle single-use plastic waste at source by introducing a world-leading tax on plastic packaging. The tax, which I announced at the Budget, will provide a clear economic incentive to business to use recycled plastic and, alongside the reform of the plastic producer responsibility system by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, it will transform the economics of sustainable packaging. The Government recently published consultations on the detail of both measures, alongside consultations on consistent waste collection and a potential deposit return scheme for beverage containers. We are determined to be the first Government who leave the environment in a better state than they found it in.

I hear what the Chancellor is saying, but in setting policy will he recognise the positive role that plastic packaging plays in reducing cost to consumers by protecting goods in transit and in reducing the environmental burden of food waste by keeping food fresher for longer?

The points my hon. Friend makes are well made, and of course this is about getting the balance right. The Government recognise that plastic packaging can play an important role, but we want to reduce the environmental impact of single-use plastic waste and encourage more sustainable forms of plastic packaging that can be recycled. The packaging tax will encourage businesses to use more recycled plastic in the production of packaging and will therefore drive a more sustainable packaging industry.

My 10-year-old constituent Emily Haines wrote to me about this issue, and she assured me she had not just copied and pasted. Indeed, when I wrote back to her by hand, her father emailed me to say that he had no idea that his daughter had written to me on this subject. So may I ask the Chancellor not to listen to those who say that he should in any way dilute what he is doing on single-use plastics? Indeed, he should do more and do as Emily says: introduce “tough new taxes” to make sure that we deal with this environmental scourge.

That is what we are doing. This will be the world’s first plastic tax and it is carefully designed to go with the grain of the market: to incentivise manufacturers to use more recycled plastic in their packaging. Because of that, it creates an effective market for packaging and, together with the producer responsibility note system, will transform the way in which plastic packaging enters the circular economy in this country.

I am pleased that the Chancellor is, apparently, taking the issue of plastic waste seriously. The Government have committed £61.4 million to global research to help to prevent plastic waste from entering the oceans. Given the challenge, is that sufficient?

It is a good start. The idea is to identify ways in which we can work with countries around the world, including many of our overseas territories, which are particularly vulnerable to this issue, to ensure that we develop effective methods of avoiding plastic waste entering the ocean. Of course the best way to do that is by ensuring that plastics are not created in the first place, or that they are effectively recycled, but avoiding dumping at sea is our No. 1 priority.

Talking of preventing waste, what with the millions wasted on the ferries fiasco, the drone debacle, the Northern rail mess, the Carillion collapse, the electronic tagging turmoil, the £2 billion East Coast chaos and, finally, £72,000 spent on defending an illegal prisoner book ban, is it not time for the Chancellor, as the custodian of the public finances, to impose a ban on the failing Secretary of State for Transport wasting any more public dosh?

I am not going to take any lectures about waste from anybody on the Opposition Front Bench. This lot are world-champion wasters of public money. They have done it before and given half a chance they will do it again.