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General Committees

Debated on Monday 31 January 2022

Delegated Legislation Committee

Plastic Packaging Tax (Descriptions of Products) Regulations 2021

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr Virendra Sharma

† Byrne, Liam (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab)

Cryer, John (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab)

† Farris, Laura (Newbury) (Con)

Graham, Richard (Gloucester) (Con)

† Hudson, Dr Neil (Penrith and The Border) (Con)

† Johnston, David (Wantage) (Con)

† Jones, Andrew (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)

† Kawczynski, Daniel (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con)

† Mackrory, Cherilyn (Truro and Falmouth) (Con)

† Mak, Alan (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Oppong-Asare, Abena (Erith and Thamesmead) (Lab)

† Qaisar, Ms Anum (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)

Sheerman, Mr Barry (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)

Trickett, Jon (Hemsworth) (Lab)

† Twist, Liz (Blaydon) (Lab)

† Whately, Helen (Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury)

† Williams, Craig (Montgomeryshire) (Con)

Liam Laurence Smyth, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

First Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 31 January 2022

[Mr Virendra Sharma in the Chair]

Plastic Packaging Tax (Descriptions of Products) Regulations 2021

Before we begin, I would like to encourage Members to observe social distancing and wear masks.

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the Plastic Packaging Tax (Descriptions of Products) Regulations 2021 (S.I. 2021, No. 1417).

The statutory instrument seeks to tackle plastic packaging waste in the most effective way possible by making sure that the legislation is properly targeted. I will first speak briefly about the context of the legislation, before moving on to the plastic packaging tax and the statutory instrument itself.

The Government are committed to tackling plastic pollution. Plastic waste is a major environmental threat. Plastics do not decompose. Plastic waste can last centuries. Those centuries may be spent in landfill sites, but too often plastic ends up where it should not—littering the streets and countryside, piling up on beaches and in rivers, and caught on the tides in the world’s oceans. In this country alone we generate nearly 5 million tonnes of plastic each year. In 2001 we recycled just a quarter of all our packaging waste. By 2017 that proportion had grown to 60%, but we can and should go further.

As hon. Members may recall, in 2018 the Government committed to introduce a tax on plastic packaging—a pledge we reiterated in our manifesto in 2019. This tax has already been legislated for in the Finance Act 2021. The tax will be charged at £200 per tonne of plastic packaging that is manufactured or imported in the UK, and which does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic. That will provide clear economic incentives for businesses to use recycled plastic over virgin plastic. This will in turn incentivise packaging producers to overcome the challenges of including recycled plastic in packaging. It will also incentivise increased collection and recycling of plastic waste, reducing the amount incinerated, dumped in landfill or strewn about so that it finds its way into the natural environment.

We estimate that the tax will lead to around 40% more recycled plastic being used in packaging in 2022-23 alone. Given that the use of new plastic generates more carbon than the use of recycled plastic, we estimate that the tax will save nearly 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in its first year, thereby achieving a dual purpose of reducing carbon emissions as well as reducing plastic waste.

This tax’s introduction has been subject to a long process of engagement and deliberation, first through two consultations in 2019 and 2020, and then through three technical consultations on the necessary legislation, including a consultation on the statutory instrument we are discussing. At every stage, the Government have listened to a range of organisations, including plastic packaging manufacturers, trade bodies across the plastics value chain and other interested stakeholders. Following these discussions and deliberations, in the Finance Act 2021 the Government introduced legislation setting out the tax’s initial scope, based on a well-established definition of packaging. The definition is similar to that in the producer responsibility obligations set out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which also seek to boost recycling rates.

The tax and the reforms to the producer responsibility obligations are designed to be complementary. However, unlike the producer responsibility obligations, this tax is charged at the point of manufacture and import, and has a different definition of packaging aimed at reducing the burdens on businesses while securing environmental aims. The definition of plastic packaging included in the Finance Act 2021 covers products designed to contain, handle, protect, deliver or present goods at any stage in the supply chain. It does not matter whether the product is used in the supply chain or by the end consumer. For example, bubble wrap and tape are both designed to be suitable in the supply chain, but can also be used by consumers. This definition ensures that items such as Tupperware and other homewares, which are not designed to be suitable for use in the supply chain, are not subject to the tax.

The primary legislation introduced in the Finance Act 2021 also exempts packaging products that are permanently set aside for a non-packaging function. By doing so, it makes sure that items that are manufactured or imported for a completely different purpose than a packaging function are not inadvertently captured within the tax. For example, plastic film that is applied to whiteboards used in teaching institutions will not be taxed, and nor would, for instance, plastic bottles made for an art installation.

I thank hon. Members and others who have taken the time to explain to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the Treasury the highly specialised nature of silage film and its use for the production of silage. After careful analysis of additional information, I can advise that, although silage film is within the overall scope of the tax, it falls under an exemption for items where packaging is not the primary function. That is because its primary purpose is to enable the fermentation necessary for the production of silage, rather than the packaging of silage. Manufacturers and importers of silage film will still need to count it towards the 10 tonne threshold to determine whether they need to register and keep a record of it being set aside for a non-packaging function to support HMRC’s compliance activity, but where that is done no tax will need to be paid.

Turning to the statutory instrument specifically, although it is critical that we tackle the scourge of plastic waste, we do not want to tax all plastic products. However, taken in isolation, the measures in the Finance Act 2021 would mean that the tax would apply to plastic products that do not typically contribute to the environmental harm that the tax is designed to address. Equally, the tax would not apply to single-use plastic packaging designed for the end consumer, such as bin bags or carrier bags. The 2021 Act allowed for additional regulations to amend and improve the definition of packaging within the scope of the tax, and that is what these regulations do.

The statutory instrument will add to the scope of the tax packaging products that are specifically designed for a single-use packaging function by a user or consumer for goods or waste—for example, bin bags and carrier bags, as I mentioned, as well as nappy sacks and disposable plastic plates. In addition, the instrument will remove packaging that is designed for the long-term storage of goods from the scope of the tax. To fall within that category, packaging must be designed to be sold filled with goods and be reused for the same or similar goods—for example, a first aid box, a glasses case or a power tool case.

The instrument also removes from the scope of the tax products where the plastic is an integral part of the goods, without which the goods cannot reasonably be used or consumed. That removes products where it is not possible to reasonably separate the packaging from the item. To fall within that category, the packaging must be discarded with the goods or after the goods have been used or consumed. That includes printer cartridges, aerosol actuators and the ball of a roll-on deodorant. Finally, the instrument removes from the scope of the tax products that are designed for reuse in the presentation of goods, including shop fittings, display shelves and presentation stands.

These adjustments follow the substantial consultation and engagement with businesses that I mentioned, and will mean that the tax better fulfils its objective of incentivising the recycling of plastic and reduced plastic waste in a targeted way. I therefore commend the statutory instrument to the Committee.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma, I believe for the first time. I thank the Minister for her comments about the regulations. As I have said before, the Opposition support the plastic packaging tax, as we believe that it is an important tool in tackling the crisis of plastic pollution that we face.

Before I come to the detail of the regulations and some of the concerns that we have about them, I will take the Minister back to the supposed aims of the plastic packaging tax. When the Government initially introduced the tax, in the last but one Finance Bill, they stated:

“The tax will encourage the use of recycled plastic instead of new plastic within packaging. It will create greater demand for recycled plastic, and in turn stimulate increased levels of recycling and collection of plastic waste, diverting it away from landfill or incineration.”

That is an important principle. The Minister just mentioned that the tax is supposed to incentivise the use of recycled plastic, and in turn reduce the overall amount of virgin plastic packaging being produced and consumed. Logically, the tax would have the greatest impact were it extended to as many items as possible. It is therefore somewhat concerning to see three new exemptions being introduced at this stage.

As I said during the passage of the original legislation, we supported common-sense exemptions such as for medical packaging but believed that the list of exemptions should be kept as short as possible. I want to take the new exemptions in turn, and ask the Minister some questions about each. The first is about packaging products designed primarily for storage, such as video game cases and toolboxes. In the explanatory notes, the Government say that those products

“do not typically contribute to plastic pollution.”

Can the Minister explain? Surely they are thrown away at some point and end up as plastic waste. The explanation also ignores the upstream environmental impact of producing the plastics. The Government have not said that they intend the tax to apply only to single-use items, so why is that justification now being used to exempt certain products?

The second exemption is for plastic packaging integral to the product being sold; the Government give examples such as printer cartridges, tea bags and mascara brushes. The Minister mentioned the encouragement of long- term storage of those goods, but will she give a further explanation, other than that, as to why they are being exempted—a bit more about the justification? We are concerned about whether the Government want greater use of recycled plastic in those products. They seem to be lowering their ambition significantly in this area.

Finally, the Government are exempting packaging used primarily for presentation. I make the same point as I did about storage items: it is not clear how these products do not contribute to plastic pollution through their production and disposal. Does the Minister not think that including them in the tax would encourage the use of recycled plastic or alternative materials?

The regulations add a new category to the scope of the tax: single-use plastic items used as packaging within the home, such as bin bags and disposable plates. We are happy to support that addition, but it takes us back to the point I made earlier. With these amendments, the Government seem to be changing the focus of the measure from encouraging recycled plastic and reducing plastic waste in general towards a narrower focus on single-use plastic. Is that correct? What assessment has the Treasury made about whether the changes will lead to more plastic waste being produced and how much?

The Minister mentioned that the definition was introduced to reduce the burden on businesses; I take this opportunity to raise a couple of points made by the British Plastics Federation and the Food and Drink Federation on behalf of their members, who will ultimately be subject to the tax. First, they say that there is confusion among businesses about exactly what products are eligible for the tax. Hopefully, the regulations will be helpful, but will the Minister consider whether HMRC needs to issue further detailed guidance?

I appreciate that the Minister mentioned that there has been a lot of consultation with relevant organisations, particularly with this SI, but there is an issue about the recycled content verification system, which ensures that imported packaging is subject to the same level of scrutiny as packaging produced in the UK. What is being done to ensure that UK producers are not being treated unfairly?

There are also concerns that, due to the lack of recycled materials in the UK, producers may struggle to meet the 30% threshold even when they wish to. There are specific issues in the food packaging sector, where there is limited regulatory approval for recycled products to be used, which the Food and Drink Federation has raised. Finally, it also raises the issue of chemical recycling and a potential problem whereby the mass balance approach to certifying chemically recycled products will not be accepted for the purposes of the plastic packaging tax in April 2022. Can the Minister respond to those practical points from the industry? If she is unable to do so today, will she write to me?

I have said before that we want to see a plastic packaging tax that is ambitious and makes a real impact in reducing plastic pollution. Just last week, the Environmental Investigation Agency released a report saying that plastic pollution is now a global emergency nearly equivalent to that of climate change itself. It has shown that the toxic pollution resulting from over-production of virgin plastics and their lifecycles is irreversible, and that it directly undermines our health, drives biodiversity loss, exacerbates climate change and risks generating large-scale harmful environmental changes. For those reasons, we cannot afford to slow down the fight against plastic pollution. We hope that the plastic packaging tax can be part of that fight, but we need reassurances from the Minister that these changes will not undermine its impact.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma. The amount of waste going to landfill in Scotland is at its lowest level since records began, but of course more needs to be done in order to maintain progress. Scotland has met and exceeded the EU target to reduce the quantity of biodegradable waste disposed of to landfill, with that waste continuing to fall to its lowest level on record. The Scottish Government are committed to matching or exceeding the standards set out by the EU single-use plastics directive, and are determined to accelerate progress to meet our ambitious waste reduction, recycling and climate change targets.

I will briefly respond to some of the points from the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead. I welcome her support for the tax and her overall support for the legislation, and I thank her for reminding us of the objectives, including our ambition to increase the use of recycled plastic over virgin plastic.

The hon. Lady raised concerns about some of the exemptions that I have outlined today, or about the targeting of the tax. Overall, we agree on the ambition to limit exemptions to ensure that the tax achieves its objective. The Government are determined to be pragmatic, but also to ensure that the tax achieves its objective of targeting those plastics that are particularly harmful to the environment. As I said in my opening speech, we carried out a huge amount of consultation and engagement with industry and those interested in this tax and legislation in order to get the targeting of the taxation right. That has led to the details of this statutory instrument, with the very specific exemptions that I outlined and the inclusion of certain single-use plastics that are used for disposal, for instance—bin bags and so on.

I say to the hon. Lady, who suggested that this was too narrow a focus, that this is a hugely ambitious tax, which sets out to change the incentives so that we see much greater use of recycled plastic and more plastic being recycled into the plastic supply chain, leading to—this picks up on her point about what assessment of impact there has been—our expectation that we will see a 40% increase in the use of recycled plastic following the introduction of the tax.

To pick up on the hon. Lady’s point about whether there are concerns or confusion about the clarity of the regulations, I should say that substantial guidance has been set out on which products are in the scope of the tax and how it should be applied; the Government have worked closely with the sector and industry on preparing the details of that. Businesses that are concerned or uncertain can indeed contact HMRC, which will lead on the implementation.

Let me cover the comments that the hon. Lady made, if she will give me a moment. She asked about imported packaging. I assure her that we are determined that there should be a level playing field, so the tax will apply equally to packaging manufactured in the UK and that imported into the UK.

The hon. Lady then asked about food packaging. We have consulted with the sector on that; we recognise some of the challenges but also the progress already being made to increase the use of recycled plastic in food packaging. We would not want to disincentivise further progress along those lines so we very much include that consideration, as with other examples of when it is more challenging to use recycled plastic.

Finally, the hon. Lady asked about chemical recycling; I am absolutely aware of questions from that part of the recycling sector. We are keen to see the use of chemically recycled plastic, which is really important for increasing the supply and quality of recycled plastic—especially some types of plastic that are hard to make with mechanically recycled plastic. The Government are investing in chemical recycling facilities to support the development of the technology. This legislation allows for chemically recycled plastic to contribute towards the 30% recycled plastic threshold for the purposes of the tax. I know that some have argued that that is not enough, but the mass balance approach that they are arguing for is a significant shift; it is about a chemically recycled plastic being attributed to packaging rather than contained in packaging. That is quite a fundamental change. We are looking at that but it would require new legislation, and we will not rush into that at this point.

In conclusion, this is an important piece of legislation, which will help this country fight the scourge of plastic pollution and cut carbon emissions by boosting recycling rates. Ultimately, it will play a part in unlocking economic benefits through the encouragement of green growth and innovation. Equally, the instrument will make sure that we tackle plastic waste in a proportionate and effective way, for the benefit of consumers and businesses alike.

I thank the Minister for answering the points I raised. I welcome the fact that detailed guidance will be provided by HMRC, particularly in relation to businesses. I appreciate that the Government have done extensive consultation with a number of stakeholders, but the ones I have engaged with represent quite a number of businesses. What are the timescales when it comes to HMRC’s publication of the guidance? There has been confusion about what businesses are eligible to do, and it is important that we get the issue right.

I am happy to respond briefly. Guidance has in fact already been published; this particular guidance first came out in November, and the most recent update was just a couple of days ago. I hope that answers the questions put by the businesses that the hon. Lady referred to; they can, of course, follow up with HMRC if they have any further questions.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme (Amendment) Order 2022

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mrs Maria Miller

† Baillie, Siobhan (Stroud) (Con)

Brown, Alan (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)

† Butler, Rob (Aylesbury) (Con)

† Champion, Sarah (Rotherham) (Lab)

† Davies, Geraint (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op)

† Hands, Greg (Minister for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change)

† Jenkinson, Mark (Workington) (Con)

Keeley, Barbara (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab)

† Morden, Jessica (Newport East) (Lab)

Morrissey, Joy (Beaconsfield) (Con)

Osamor, Kate (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op)

† Stevenson, Jane (Wolverhampton North East) (Con)

Sturdy, Julian (York Outer) (Con)

† Vara, Shailesh (North West Cambridgeshire) (Con)

† Whitehead, Dr Alan (Southampton, Test) (Lab)

† Whittaker, Craig (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Wood, Mike (Dudley South) (Con)

Seb Newman, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Second Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 31 January 2022

[Mrs Maria Miller in the Chair]

Draft Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme (Amendment) Order 2022

Before we begin, I remind everybody that we are still under socially distanced rules, and please to wear masks if you are not speaking, as ordered by Mr Speaker and the Commission. I call the Minister to move the motion.

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme (Amendment) Order 2022.

The draft order was laid before the House on 6 January.

The UK emissions trading scheme—the UK ETS—was established under the Climate Change Act 2008 by the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme Order 2020 as a UK-wide greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme to encourage cost-effective emissions reductions that will contribute to the UK’s emissions reduction targets and net zero goal. The scheme replaced the UK’s participation in the EU emissions trading system—the EU ETS—and the 2020 order applied EU ETS rules on the monitoring, reporting and verification of emissions, with modifications to ensure that they work for the UK ETS.

The 2020 order was subsequently amended by the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme (Amendment) Order 2020 to include provisions for the free allocation of emissions allowances and to create the UK ETS registry. Regulations under the Finance Act 2020 established the rules for auctioning allowances and mechanisms to support market stability. The UK ETS launched on 1 January 2021, and the first auction successfully completed on 19 May. The scheme has been running well since its launch, but there is a need to continue to improve its operation.

Further amendments have been made by the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme (Amendment) Order 2021, which is subject to the negative procedure and comes into force on 7 February 2022. In broad terms, the 2021 order makes various technical and operational amendments to the UK ETS across a number of scheme aspects, including providing for installations in the hospital and small emitter opt-out scheme to be able to increase their emissions targets, and for installations in both opt-out schemes that return to the main scheme to benefit from free allocation.

The purpose of this order is to amend the 2020 order to address several residual operational issues identified during the development and legislation of the scheme, and to support the scheme’s technical operation. This legislation also addresses an issue of doubtful vires relating to previous amendments, raised by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. This proposed order consists of various operational issues identified by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the devolved Administrations and the national scheme regulators during the establishment of the scheme that were required to be legislated for via an affirmative procedure.

This order does three things: introduces a civil penalty to enforce an existing obligation to return overallocated allowances; creates an offence of intentionally obstructing the scheme regulators that are exercising enforcement powers; and makes it clear that some enforcement powers previously introduced by the negative procedure are valid.

In conclusion, this order will help to improve the effective operation of the UK ETS. This in turn will help to ensure that the scheme plays its part in reducing emissions. I therefore commend the order to the Committee.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Miller, albeit I have a slight apology to make for turning up at the very last moment. I ought perhaps to advise the Committee that the recently refurbished lift that takes hon. Members from the ground floor opposite the Strangers’ Bar does not stop at the first floor, which necessitated a rather circuitous route to get here. I apologise for being right on time, or marginally later, and I hope that the House of Commons authorities may have a look at whether the lift ought to stop at the first floor, which would be a good idea for good order in this House.

This statutory instrument is essentially uncontroversial, although the operation of the UK ETS is perhaps a little more controversial. The reason we are here this afternoon is because the SI seeks to put right an amendment order of 2020, which was put through under the negative procedure. However, the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments decided that it should have gone through the affirmative procedure, which is why we are debating this SI.

The changes in this SI, as opposed to those in the 2021 amendment order, are minimal to the point of being nothing. What we have in front of us is an amendment to the 2020 order, clarifying and adding various things in the way the Minister has described on aviation, on unused allowances and on definitions of how certain procedures of the order would work. One could argue that those perhaps might have been put in the 2020 order in the first place, but I am pleased that they are with us now.

I do not have any particular concerns or objections about those particular things in the order itself but, since we do not get many, or any, opportunities to examine the operation of the UK ETS, it is worth considering briefly what is happening to the scheme and whether it might have been a good idea to place some further amendments to the scheme before the House, both in terms of what has happened in the EU as far as the UK ETS is concerned and what has happened during the early stages of the scheme’s operation.

I therefore have two brief questions for the Minister about the operation of the UK ETS. Although my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham kindly sent me a note of what she intends to talk about, I will not—in the best traditions of theatre critics not to give away the plot of the play—tell the Committee exactly what she will say. However, I want to reflect on two things that are important to the operation of the UK ETS.

First, the intention of the UK ETS, at least for the first few years of operation, is that it should pretty closely shadow the EU ETS. As we know, that has not been the case. UK ETS prices have come in considerably higher than those of the EU ETS over that period. The intention behind the 2020 order, as set out in its impact assessment, has not been realised. It might have been wise to put in place linking mechanisms with the EU ETS much earlier—the Government have said they would consider doing so at some future date but have not done anything about it, as far as I know—bearing in mind that the EU ETS and the UK ETS have diverged in price in a way that was not originally envisaged.

My first question to the Minister is this. Does he intend to look at linking mechanisms with the EU ETS at an early stage to prevent future divergence, which may otherwise be increasingly wide? Among other things, businesses and commerce in this country want to be able to anticipate what will happen with carbon pricing. We do not disagree with the principle of carbon pricing, but businesses need some stability in their forward understanding of it.

Since the 2020 order, from which this amendment order derives, the EU has adopted in principle a proposal for a new carbon border adjustment mechanism. That mechanism would deal with the consequences of carbon leakage—that is, where the EU’s carbon taxes and carbon trading arrangements mean that third countries have a considerable trade advantage, because they can import goods without such arrangements attached and bring them within the EU’s borders. As far as I know, the UK has not yet taken any action on considering or implementing a carbon border adjustment mechanism. If the EU proceeds with such a mechanism, as seems likely, the UK will be in an even worse position than it is now when it comes to carbon leakage. We will be external to a carbon adjustment mechanism, so we will have punitive elements against us. At the same time, people will be able to import goods into the UK, safe in the knowledge that they are not subject to the same sorts of arrangements.

The Minister knows that various members of the Government—he is not one of them—have indicated that the UK should take the idea of a carbon border adjustment mechanism very seriously. My second question to him is this. Has he considered adding a carbon border adjustment mechanism to the 2020 order that brought about the UK scheme, as a successor to the EU ETS? If he has considered it, what action is his Department taking to forward the idea of a UK carbon border adjustment mechanism?

I hope that I have not stolen my hon. Friend’s thunder and that between us we will get some clarification at least from the Minister about how these things will work as the UK ETS proceeds. As a great supporter of carbon trading, I would say that a UK carbon trading mechanism—the UK ETS—should have been the obvious thing to introduce after the UK’s exit from the EU. I fully support that. What I am concerned about is ensuring that the UK ETS works as well as possible, to the net benefit of the UK and UK industry, rather than causing problems for it, as it sometimes looks like it might. I am sure the Minister will give me a full and frank run-down of the Government’s intentions in these areas. I look forward to hearing from him, but first I am very happy to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham, who I think will develop this theme a little further in relation to particular businesses in her constituency.

It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mrs Miller. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test for encapsulating the issues we are facing.

It is extremely fortunate for me that I am on the Committee considering this piece of secondary legislation, because it is so pertinent to one of the oldest businesses in my constituency—one that I am extremely nervous may be thrown into considerable, if not terminal, economic problems because of the situation with the emissions trading scheme, among other things.

The rationale behind the UK emissions trading scheme and its predecessor, the EU ETS, was to encourage investment in decarbonising by charging industrial emitters of CO2 for the pollution they were causing. The system placed a legal requirement on polluters to purchase CO2 or carbon allowances from the state and surrender them to match the quantum of emissions emitted by an industrial installation on an annual basis, with strict penalties for non-compliance or failure to surrender allowances. It was designed to reduce the availability of CO2 allowances over time, thereby pushing CO2 allowance prices up, as decarbonisation technology developed and became an investable alternative to paying for emission allowances.

It was recognised that the scheme could have a negative effect on competitiveness and lead to production being moved to countries where costs were lower and operators did not face carbon emissions controls—what is called carbon leakage. To protect against this, businesses deemed at risk of carbon leakage received a percentage of free allowances to assist in minimising the risk. The logic behind the system appears sound, but sadly, as happens in so many cases, the reality does not match the theory.

Beatson Clark in my constituency is a small UK-owned glass manufacturer that has operated from the same site in my constituency since 1751. It employs 351 direct employees, as well as supporting many local businesses throughout its supply chain. It produces glass containers for the food, drinks and pharmaceutical markets, and is the only remaining producer of amber pharmaceutical glass in the UK. Beatson Clark has led the way in reducing its CO2 emissions by increasing the levels of recycled materials in the glass it produces. It has invested millions of pounds in its own recycling plant in order to secure recycled materials for its glass furnaces. It is the only UK glass manufacturer that actually owns and operates its own recycling plant. Basically, Beatson Clark is a green, recycling business that the UK should be proud of; but, due to both commercial and physical factors, it is unable to reduce emissions further.

Glass can be melted using electrical energy, but the infrastructure to deliver sufficient energy to the site is not in place, and the costs associated with it would be prohibitive. It would also take years to implement. The switch from melting using natural gas to using electricity would add between £4 million and £5 million in costs—costs that were calculated before the current energy price spike. These additional costs would increase to around £30 million in electricity energy against gas at the peak of the current crisis. It would simply not be commercially viable to switch, even if the infrastructure were in place.

The UK market is now being offered glass at prices below the UK production costs. Increasingly, these imports are coming from the middle east and Turkey. Beatson Clark asked British Gas to conduct an assessment of the production costs and CO2 impact associated with glass produced in Turkey. It established that shipping glass produced there to the UK—and no doubt bringing it from ferries to the actual sites on lorries—resulted in a 36% increase in CO2 emissions. However, the cost of manufacturing in Turkey was around 39% lower. As a result of both lower energy costs, and the fact that there is no carbon allowance burden, such glass is made considerably cheaper than anything that can be produced in the UK.

In the last year, the UK ETS allowance prices, like the energy prices, have increased beyond what could have been anticipated by industry. When the first auction of UK allowances took place in May 2021, the reserve was set at £22 per tonne. The actual sale price was £43.99 per tonne. Prices have continued to rise over the year to around £80 per tonne. The equivalent EU CO2 allowance price has also risen, but on average the cost of a UK allowance is around £4 a tonne more expensive.

May I encourage the hon. Member to talk about operational improvements in respect of the UK ETS? I am sure she was about to come on to that.

Thank you, Mrs Miller; I will do so. I know what a good Chair you are, so I know that I am pushing my luck.

As a result, Beatson Clark, like many other essential UK businesses, has seen its carbon compliance costs triple. It cannot reduce its emissions further without significant investment in energy infrastructure. Even if the infrastructure were in place, the cost of alternative energy would be prohibitive. It is therefore in a Catch-22; it wishes to further decarbonise, but there is no commercially viable method of doing so. It feels that it is trapped, leaving the purchase of allowances simply as a tax on business. It also has concerns that some of the increase in the CO2 allowance is being driven by speculators.

The Government have made over £4.5 billion from the sale of carbon allowances since May 2021. While the Treasury is enjoying the windfall as a result of higher carbon prices, UK obligated companies and institutions are suffering. Businesses need stability. They cannot realistically plan for all the unforeseeable circumstances, such as the massive increases in energy and carbon costs that we have seen over the past six months. The current system and policies are failing companies that want to do the right thing, and I fear that we may see businesses closing as a consequence.

The impact assessment published alongside the design of the UK ETS in June 2020 did not envisage the present situation. Can I therefore ask the Minister, at the very least, to recommission the impact assessment to bring it line with the current reality? More broadly, will the Minister commit to a total review of energy, energy policies, energy taxation and environmental policies? This would ensure that the Government are focused on levelling up costs across Europe, protecting against carbon leakage from beyond Europe and allowing sustainable CO2 reduction while maintaining affordable production in the UK.

Finally, I say to the Minister: Beatson Clark is an absolutely fantastic example of how a business can support a local community and local suppliers. I know that it would really welcome a visit if the Minister is passing.

Before I bring in the next Member, I would like to remind everybody that Delegated Legislation Committees are tightly focused on the measure in front of us. We really do need to focus on the issue in question: the operational improvements of the UK ETS.

It is a great joy to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Miller. I would like to make a couple of quick points on the operational improvements of the trading scheme.

First, I support the points made by my hon. Friends the Members for Southampton, Test and for Rotherham about the carbon border adjustment mechanism or tax, which could be in these changes. The steel produced in Wales, for example, has half the carbon of Chinese steel coming in. Over time, we want to be in a situation where we support jobs rather than export them to China and elsewhere, where dirtier production occurs. China produces some 30% of overall carbon emissions and uses half the world’s coal-fired power stations—we are talking about 1,037, with another 300 on the way. Perhaps the Minister could comment on that.

Secondly, will the Minister comment on why Drax is not included in the emissions trading scheme? Drax burns 7 million tonnes of wood pellets. That wood is grown in America. It is argued that the wood that is cut down is replaced. Even if it is, that in itself is a neutral operation, but then it is burned here, and it is not counted in our carbon emissions. That is amazing, given that it is the biggest emitter of PM10 in Europe. We basically spend £800 million subsidising it, which is £114 a tonne. In burning wood and coal, we burn a carbon store, but in burning wood, we also destroy a way of absorbing CO2 and producing oxygen.

Thirdly, on airlines and aircraft, I am aware that British Airways is buying up Welsh farms in order to get the carbon offset to fly more planes. Some of those farms are sheep farms, so we will end up flying in Australian sheep and lamb, having basically allowed BA to use this scheme to create more carbon emissions through their planes.

Finally, will the Minister comment on the Government’s plan to double incineration by 2030? What impact will that have, and how will it be factored into the scheme, if at all?

I thank all Members for participating in this debate. The hon. Member for Southampton, Test mentioned the trouble with the lift opposite the Strangers’ Bar. It can sometimes be confusing, taking a lift directly outside a bar. I have to say that I took one of the two lifts there and came up without any difficulty. To be fair, he may well have taken the other lift, and it may well also not stop at the first floor. I am sure that the House authorities will want to have a look at it. Perhaps they might also find an explanation for the SNP’s failure to attend the Committee, which may also have its origin in that interesting feature of the House as it has been reconstructed.

The hon. Gentleman said that the draft order was not controversial, and I agree. He described the evolution of the affirmative SI that we are considering today, and he is correct that it is generated out of the 2020 order. One set of changes is subject to the negative procedure, and one set is subject to the affirmative procedure—particularly those changes that create new offences, which is what is before us today.

The hon. Gentleman asked two questions about the UK ETS system in general. Its intention, as he sees it, is to shadow the EU ETS. I do not think that is the right way to describe it. Its original features were based on the EU’s ETS scheme. He is right that our prices have been higher, but I would not say drastically so; as the hon. Member for Rotherham pointed out, they have been around 5% higher. We never said that the prices—or, indeed, the eligible elements within the scheme—would necessarily track, but the hon. Member for Southampton, Test is right that there is a common origin.

In terms of linking mechanisms, we are open to dialogue with the European Union in consideration of linking to the EU scheme. That follows our commitments in the trade and co-operation agreement. The two sides updated each other at the trade specialised committee on 12 October.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about the EU carbon border adjustment mechanisms. As he will know, that is an EU proposal that has not yet been legislated for. In my previous ministerial role at the Department for International Trade, the UK was well aware of that proposal, and we continue to watch it very closely. The two things that I would say in relation to it are that it needs to be World Trade Organisation compliant, and that we must make sure it does not discriminate against genuine developing countries. I know that the hon. Member for Rotherham, in her role as Chair of the International Development Committee, will take a strong interest in that point as well.

It is always good to hear about the practical impact that Government decisions and policies can have on successful small and medium-sized enterprises such as Beatson Clark in the constituency of the hon. Member for Rotherham, which has been there since 1751—a remarkable achievement in its own right. We want to make sure that, having been around for 271 years, that company might have a future for the next 271 years, so I will pass on the information about it to the Minister for Industry, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire (Lee Rowley), who is more directly involved with the glass sector.

To respond to the points that the hon. Lady raised, we are in daily contact with energy-intensive industry stakeholders regarding ongoing concerns over energy markets. Ministers and officials continue to engage with industry to further understand the impacts of high global gas prices. Our priority is to ensure that costs are managed and supplies of energy are maintained. We are committed to minimising energy costs for businesses, which is vital. In 2020, relief to energy-intensive industries for electricity policy costs alone was worth over £470 million.

In debates like this I am normally arguing for steel, which I also have in my constituency. I know that Liberty Steel was a beneficiary of those grants, but I do not think that glass is getting the same support as steel. If the Minister could look into that issue, I would be extremely grateful.

I will certainly look into that in conjunction with the Minister for Industry; I will make sure that he is aware of the issue that the hon. Lady raises. As she rightly pointed out in her speech, allowances were allocated freely in 2021. The 2022 free allocation amounted to 42 million allowances, as it did the year before, and will be issued by 28 February 2022, in advance of the 2021 compliance deadline of 30 April 2022. There is good continuity of approach there.

By putting a price on carbon emissions, the UK ETS incentivises market participants to find the most cost-effective solutions to decarbonising. We understand, of course, that there is a risk of carbon leakage, which we mentioned just a moment ago in relation to the EU’s approach. The UK ETS authority, which is the four Governments in the United Kingdom together, will consult in the coming months on the trajectory of the scheme’s cap, particularly to keep it aligned to our net zero obligation. As part of that consultation, we intend to review our free allocation in the UK ETS, for which we will start a call for evidence in the spring. Energy prices, policy and taxes are all things that we keep under constant review—particularly taxes—so I can assure the hon. Lady that we already have a total review.

Turning to the points made by the hon. Member for Swansea West, in terms of Drax, it is important to recognise that policies are not specific to any particular company. Currently, installations that use only biomass are out of the scope of the ETS, but I can take away the points that he made and follow up on them. He mentioned British Airways flying in Australian sheep; I think he might have meant sheepmeat or lamb meat, rather than the sheep themselves. Having negotiated the Australian trade deal, I am pretty sure that the movement of sheep themselves would not be within scope.

Just for clarity, the point I was trying to make was simply that British Airways is buying up sheep farms in order to offset the aircraft it uses to send people on holiday or whatever, and—separately from that—that obviously gives rise to less sheep production in Wales. We have an open-door deal with Australia to allow exports of sheep, so we end up displacing consumption of Welsh sheep with consumption of Australian sheep and burning more carbon, which does not seem to be very good, either economically or environmentally.

The hon. Gentleman is tempting me down the path of debating the Australia free trade agreement—

Which I will not go down. The two of us have been here before—I know that he is a member of the International Trade Committee—but I will not engage with him on the topic of British Airways and Welsh farms.

I thank hon. Members for their valuable contributions to today’s debate. This order will help improve the effective operation of the UK ETS and, in doing so, will help support delivery of our climate ambitions. I therefore commend it to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.


That the Committee has considered the draft Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme (Amendment) Order 2022.

Committee rose.