At the time of writing Brexit is still very much a live issue, so I will not write about it as clearly events may well have moved on considerably by the time you read this. You can read my latest statement on my website or on my facebook page.
Even with Brexit taking up a lot of Parliamentary time and a lot of MPs’ time, we are still moving forward with some very important legislation and I continue to receive a lot of letters about a wide range of issues.
One of the issues I really care about is efforts to reduce the amount of plastic we use, especially single use plastics. Ever since my eldest daughter was studying marine biology at university, she has put pressure on our family to reduce single use plastic waste.
I receive a lot of letters about this and I welcome the fact that under the Government’s new 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment, there is a real commitment to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste.
I was pleased to see in the Budget last year a consultation on plans to introduce a new tax on the manufacture or import of plastic packaging composed of less than 30 per cent recycled material. This could really open up the market for recycled products.
Following on from the welcome ban on microbeads, we are now looking into whether other problematic products should be banned – as long as there is a suitable alternative. A consultation on restricting the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds has now finished. Ministers are now preparing their response and what action to take. There will now be a new consultation on a deposit return scheme for drinks containers – something older residents will remember used to be quite common for glass bottles.
We need to work with retailers to encourage waste reduction and explore introducing plastic-free supermarket aisles in which all the food is loose. We are also looking at extending the single-use carrier bag charge to all retailers, and the possibility of increasing the 5p minimum charge.
I am keen that the UK demonstrates international leadership as well, doing more to help developing nations tackle pollution and reduce plastic waste, including through the Commonwealth and UK Aid.