Plastic bag charge to be introduced in England

 

Ed Davey: "Try to avoid this charge, we want you to re-use your plastic bags"

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A 5p charge for plastic bags in England is to be introduced by the government in a bid to discourage their use.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is to unveil the plans at the Liberal Democrat party conference this weekend.

Ministers are said to be concerned at the environmental impact of the bags, particularly on waterborne animals.

The charge, which will only apply to supermarkets and larger stores, will begin after the 2015 election, with the proceeds going to charities.

A similar charge applying to the single-use carrier bags made from both plastic and paper is already in effect in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland's Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, this week announced he was not going ahead with plans to raise the levy to 10p per bag, because the present arrangements were proving successful.

He said data from major supermarkets showed there had been an 80% reduction in plastic bag use since the levy was brought in.

Retailers in Scotland will start charging for bags in October 2014.

According to Liberal Democrat sources, the charge in Wales, which began in 2011, has seen the use of plastic bags drop by roughly 75%.

Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said his party had faced opposition to the scheme from the Conservatives.

He said the charge would only raise "pretty small amounts" for charity, as its intention was to get people to reduce the amount they use.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said: "It is a huge environmental step forward.

'Tough times'

"We are very clear that none of this money will come to government, we are not trying to tax people, we are trying to change people's behaviour, encourage much more environmentally-friendly behaviour."

Start Quote

This small step will do little to tackle the nation's huge waste mountain ”

End Quote Craig Bennett Friends of the Earth

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said there was enthusiasm for the plans among major retailers but there had been opposition from government colleagues.

Speaking on a visit to Cathkin Marsh nature reserve, near Glasgow, he said that plastic bags were often used for just a few minutes but "take 1,000 years to degrade".

He said: "That's not just bad for the environment, they are a terrible eyesore on our beautiful countryside. They cause a lot of suffering for animals, particularly marine wildlife."

Mr Clegg said he hoped any money raised by the levy would be donated to environmental charities.

He added: "Of course there are debates in government on something like this, this is a big change. But it's one that I was very keen to do and I think we will now do it - not overnight, it will happen by the end of 2015.

"But I think very quickly, just as in the way people are accepting it in Wales where there has been an up to 80% drop in the use of plastic bags, people will get used to it and support it."

Andy Walker from the campaign group, Keep Britain Tidy, said that free plastic bags came with a "cost to the environment".

"Our supporters up and down the country end up cleaning bags from water courses, from beaches, from the High Street... so we believe it'll reduce the incidence of bags there," he said.

"But it will also influence behaviour change - people will start to take reusable bags with them to the supermarket and that will actually make a big difference to the environment."

But Matthew Sinclair, from the Taxpayers' Alliance, said the charge was an unnecessary measure that would have little impact on overall waste.

"This is not just a small share of waste, this is a tiny share of waste," he said.

"And I don't think that for every problem the answer is a new tax.

Supermarket checkout Supermarkets have already been encouraging customers to reduce their use of carrier bags

"There are already a number of different schemes to encourage people to think about using reusable bags, there are other schemes which involve using the carrot rather than the stick of a new tax."

Craig Bennett, policy and campaigns director of Friends of the Earth, said: "A plastic bag charge is welcome news, but let's not get carried away.

"This small step will do little to tackle the nation's huge waste mountain and can't disguise the government's woeful green record."

He said tougher action and ambitious targets were needed to to cut waste, boost recycling and "bring England in line with the rest of the UK and much of Europe".

BBC political correspondent Robin Brant said ministers acknowledged that shoppers may be unhappy about the prospect of the charge in what are "tough times" but the coalition believed it needed to tackle their use.

A number of supermarkets already encourage customers to limit their use of carrier bags by giving them loyalty points for providing their own. Marks & Spencer charges 5p for its plastic carrier bags, donating the profits to charities and education projects, but still gives out smaller bags.

Charities involved in clearing up the environmental damage caused by plastic bags will benefit from money raised by the new charge.

Groups such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society and Surfers Against Sewage have long called for a charge. They said plastic bags littered England's streets and countryside.

The bags, they say, have proved harmful to wildlife which become entangled in them or think they are food.

 

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  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1095.

    instead of charging for plastic bags, wouldn't a better incentive be a discount on your shopping if you don't use them.

  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 913.

    What on earth is so hard about taking your own cloth bags with you?

    For those who don't like advertising a store, when a plastic bag is completely unavoidable, turn them all inside out before putting your stuff in them.

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 800.

    I agree with the basic premise that we should reduce the number of plastics bags we use, but instead of trying to engineer around the problem, why does the government ban the supermarkets from using plastic bags and compell us to use paperbags like the Americans do.

  • rate this
    +35

    Comment number 798.

    I use my supermarket plastic bags for getting rid of rubbish - fortnightly bin collection needs wrapping to keep smells in and flies out. So I will now have to buy plastic rubbish bags.

    Supermarkets used to have a bagging area with empty cardbord boxes to use to transport stuff away, suppose that was stopped in the name of health and safety

  • rate this
    +66

    Comment number 532.

    I agree with the basic premise that we should reduce the number of plastics bags we use, for the sake of the environment. Why then does my local council require me to put all my rubbish and recycling into plastic bags before it will take them away?

 

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    09:00: Jim Murphy on polls
    Jim Murphy

    Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy has been speaking to BBC Scotland about his party's polling performance, which suggests they could lose almost all of their seats north of the border. He told Good Morning Scotland: "There's still a long way to go. In voting for an SNP MP, people will get a Tory government." More on his interview on our Scotland Live page.

     
  65.  
    08:58: Preventing extremism BBC Radio 4 Today

    Has the government's Prevent scheme - a key element of its counter-terrorism strategy- failed? Frank Gardner, our security correspondent, says it has worked in some cases, where people have been steered away from extremism at the last minute. But in other cases it has been counter-productive. The scheme has a problem of perception - it is seen by many Muslims as unfairly focussing on their communities, he adds.

    Our correspondent spoke to experts about the scheme. We'll post a link later.

     
  66.  
    08:53: Putin's 'undeclared war' on Ukraine BBC Radio 4 Today
    José Manuel Barroso

    José Manuel Barroso says Europe must not accept Russia seeking to redraw the borders of Europe.

    He told Today: "Putin is saying he respects the sovereignty of Ukraine. But at the same time we know this is the biggest Russian operation since the Second World War in military terms. It's a kind of undeclared war."

    The former President of the European Commission went on to say that he expects the situation to get worse before it gets better.

     
  67.  
    08:47: 'Parliamentary no-man's land' The Daily Telegraph

    Fraser Nelson says the Tories need to be more ambitious if they are to win an overall majority.

    Writing in today's Telegraph, he says: "On its own, 'long-term economic plan' just won't be enough. It will lead not to victory, but to a parliamentary no-man's land."

     
  68.  
    08:44: Sturgeon on Trident The Guardian

    Is Trident a red line for the SNP? In another video posted by the Guardian, Nicola Sturgeon suggests her party could still back a Labour government if it backs renewal of the weapons. But the SNP leader rules out her party voting for it.

     
  69.  
    08:36: Davey: Tories 'crazy' for fracking The Daily Telegraph
    Ed Davey MP

    The Telegraph is reporting Ed Davey's criticism of the faith some Conservatives have in fracking.

    The Lib Dem Energy Secretary said parts of the Conservative Party are "crazy" because they want to "frack every bit of croquet lawn" in Britain.

     
  70.  
    @DPJHodges Dan Hodges, political commentator

    tweets: Someone needs to explain to me how telling Scottish voters "vote SNP and we disenfranchise you" helps make the case for the Union.

     
  71.  
    08:29: Sturgeon on domestic chores
    Strugeon

    Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister, has been a vocal advocate of women's rights since taking over from Alex Salmond. It might come as a surprise to some, therefore, that she still irons her husband's shirts. She made the revelation in a video interview with the Guardian. Her husband is SNP chief executive Peter Murrell.

    As part of a series of videos, the SNP leader also said she couldn't rule out another independence referendum.

     
  72.  
    08:23: Green conference Eleanor Garnier Political correspondent

    Our correspondent says the Green Party has seen a huge surge in membership over the last year and even had to change venue to fit in all the activists it expects to turn up.

    But leader Natalie Bennett is under some pressure after a poor interview performance last month and our reporter says Ms Bennett "really does need to bounce back."

    There is unprecedented opportunity at this conference, but also unprecedented scrutiny, she concludes.

     
  73.  
    08:19: UKIP 'will reduce immigration' BBC Radio 4 Today
    Mark Reckless MP

    UKIP MP Mark Reckless is on Today defending the party's immigration policy. Asked why the party don't have a target for immigration, Mr Reckless said: "What we are going to do is control the quarter of a million people who come from the EU last year."

    He went on to set out policies including tighter border controls and a points-based system and said: "What that will do will hugely reduce that number of people coming to this country."

     
  74.  
    @FrankRGardner Frank Gardner

    tweets: We'll be discussing the UK Govt's controversial 'Prevent' strategy to counter extremism at 0830 on @BBCr4today

     
  75.  
    08:08: UK 'needs own Abraham Lincoln' The Guardian

    Over on the Guardian, Martin Kettle argues the UK needs its own Abraham Lincoln. If Britain proves to be "a house divided against itself" in coming years, especially with the rise of nationalism, "it will also require someone to fill Lincoln-sized shoes if the house is to continue to stand, both within these islands and in the union with Europe", he says. But he's not confident David Cameron or Ed Miliband have shown they can match the former US president's oratory skills. You can read his piece here.

     
  76.  
    08:04: Chuka: Selfies 'keep it real'
    Chuka Umunna MP

    In an interview with House magazine, Chuka Umunna has praised the selfie. He said: "The thing about selfies is so often you do these posed, formal shots whereas when you are doing a group shot like that, it's a little bit more relaxed, you keep it real. Certainly with young people, it just relaxes the whole thing. And that is what my constituents say: keep it real."

    The Shadow Business Secretary also told House that he finds it awkward being praised for his looks: "I feel a little bit awkward, if I'm honest about it". He added: "It amuses my family, my friends take the piss out of me royally about it."

     
  77.  
    07:53: Bennett interview 'a serious failure' Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News
    Natalie Bennett

    The stumbling performance by Green leader Natalie Bennett in a radio interview last month was a "serious failure" that showed she had failed to prepare and left her colleagues "taken aback", according to the Green leader on Liverpool City Council John Coyne.

    He told the BBC it wouldn't happen again as Ms Bennett would in future rehearse her performance in mock interviews.

    Mr Coyne said: "It's a failure that she was underprepared we know why that happened and we know it will be fixed for the future."

    The criticism comes as Greens meet in Liverpool for their spring conference, gathering in the Liverpool Riverside constituency - which they are targeting at the general election - and where Mr Coyne is a sitting councillor.

    Mr Coyne is chair of the Green Councillors Association and was the first Green on Liverpool council after defecting from the Liberal Democrats.

    He said: "It was a serious failure and we thought it might be damaging to us but one thing that perhaps is saving us from that is people who are attracted to the Green Party tend to have a more generous disposition anyway."

    Asked about the reaction of Greens to a performance he described as "excruciating" he said: "We were taken aback but again in the Green Party we are compassionate and it certainly helped to indicate that we have someone who's a human being."

    Bennett apologised to members after the interview.

     
  78.  
    07:47: Globalisation driving immigration

    Home Affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani digests today's immigration story on his blog. He writes: "The old way of thinking about immigration and how it affects the UK needs to be tossed into the dustbin."

    He adds: "Today's migrants - particularly those from Eastern Europe - may be found in all manner of locations because of the effects of globalisation and the single market."

    Research from Oxford University shows immigration has increased the population of England by half a million in the past three years.

     
  79.  
    @rosschawkins Ross Hawkins, BBC correspondent

    tweets: Green leader Natalie Bennett will do mock interviews in future to prepare, Liverpool councillor tells me before Liverpool conference

     
  80.  
    07:41: John Major on SNP The Daily Telegraph
    John Major

    Sir John Major has also been giving his views on the rise of the SNP in Scotland. The former Tory prime minister, writing in this morning's Telegraph, says Ed Miliband should rule out a coalition with the nationalists. He says "the SNP would enter into any agreement with Labour with one overriding aim: to break up the United Kingdom". You can read the Telegraph's news story here and Sir John's piece here.

     
  81.  
    @Number10gov UK Prime Minister

    tweets: PM: To everyone in the UK, India and around the world celebrating the festival of colour and arrival of spring, I wish you a happy #Holi!

     
  82.  
    07:30: John Humphrys in Watford BBC Radio 4 Today

    In the latest of Today's 100 seats in 100 days series, John Humphrys has visited Watford to explore what effect marketing has on voter choices. You can listen to his package here.

     
  83.  
    07:23: Plaid to demand equal funding for Wales and Scotland
    Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood AM

    Plaid Cymru say they will demand equal funding for Wales and Scotland in any post-election Westminster coalition talks.

    At the party's spring conference in Caernarfon, party leader Leanne Wood will urge the "Westminster parties" to promise Wales an extra £1.2bn a year.

    More on this.

     
  84.  
    07:16: Labour's video mocking PM on debates You Tube

    Paul Waugh from Politics Home has tweeted a video from Labour contrasting David Cameron's positive and negative stances to TV debates.

     
  85.  
    07:06: PM's debates decision shows 'aristocratic contempt' The Guardian
    David Cameron MP

    John Harris takes up Nick Clegg MP's "Downton Abbey" characterisation of David Cameron's decision on the debates in his column in today's Guardian.

    Harris writes of the PM: "Once he styled himself as a leader who was open and up for a challenge; now he looks more than ever like a cold power politician with a tinge of aristocratic contempt for rules and rituals that need only apply to others."

    Clegg told LBC radio yesterday: "I can't get over the lofty pomposity of the Conservatives. It's as if they think they are ordering a drink in the drawing room of Downton Abbey, telling everybody else what they should do."

     
  86.  
    07:00: SNP influence 'desirable' BBC Radio 4 Today

    Ewan Crawford, a former SNP special adviser, says the trouble for Labour is they stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Conservatives during the referendum. At the time, they said there would be no threat to public services and promised "strength and security", Mr Crawford argues, but now they say the Tories would be a disaster. Mr Crawford says the SNP would push Labour to do what Labour actually wants to do. And SNP influence on a Labour government is "desirable", he adds.

     
  87.  
    06:56: Labour MP on Scotland polls BBC Radio 4 Today

    Ian Murray, a Labour MP in Edinburgh, is speaking about the latest polls, which indicate a disastrous result for his party in Scotland could be coming. He admits if his party loses Scotland, Ed Miliband won't be prime minister. He says Labour doesn't want or need a coalition with the nationalists.

     
  88.  
    06:51: Parking leeway introduced

    The government has announced drivers will be given 10 minutes' grace before being fined if they stay too long in council-owned car parks in England. Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, says he wants to end the "war on drivers". The leeway is set to take effect later this month. And it will apply to free and paid-for parking spaces both on streets and in off-street car parks. More here.

     
  89.  
    06:46: Greens 'bigger than UKIP'

    As the Green party heads to Liverpool for their conference today, it's worth remembering that they are believed to have more members than UKIP. In January BBC Online reported the party had 43,829 members compared with UKIP's 41,966. We'll be covering the Green party conference throughout the day.

     
  90.  
    06:41: The papers
    Daily Mail and i front pages on 06/03/15

    This morning's national newspapers feature a number of political stories. Alex Kleiderman has the newspaper review here.

     
  91.  
    06:34: 'UK must support Hong Kong'
    Hong Kong

    The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has urged the government to speak up in support of democracy in Hong Kong or risk damage to the UK's reputation there. The MPs said they were "profoundly disappointed" at ministers' response when China blocked committee members from visiting the former UK colony. Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire said the UK wanted democratic "transition". More here.

     
  92.  
    06:28: Greens moot alliance with SNP
    Caroline Lucas

    The Greens are expected to call for a "progressive alliance" with the SNP at their party conference in Liverpool later today.

    Green Party MP and former leader Caroline Lucas will say: "With the rise of the SNP, and with our own Green surge, we have the chance to forge a new grouping in Parliament. A progressive alliance.

    "Of course, in Scotland and in Wales we'll be fighting hard for our distinctive values and policies. Just as we do against those individual Labour and even Lib Dem candidates with whom we have something in common." More here.

     
  93.  
    06:18: 'England's population up'

    A major analysis by the University of Oxford estimates that the population of England has risen by 565,000 since 2011 because of immigration. The Migration Observatory unit says it came up with the projections because similar official data will not be available before the general election. Two-thirds of the rise is attributed to people from the European Union. We'll bring you all the reaction.

     
  94.  
    06:13: Good morning from Westminster

    Hello and welcome to Friday's political coverage. Nick Eardley and Sarah Weaver will bring you all the action, reaction and analysis in text and you'll be able to watch and listen to all the main BBC political programmes, from Today and Breakfast through to Newsnight and Today in Parliament. Don't forget you can get in touch by emailing politics@bbc.co.uk or via social media @bbcpolitics. Here's how Thursday unfolded.

     

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