England will not get a plastic bag levy until evidence is available from how the system has worked in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Resources management minister Lord de Mauley told peers this week: “We are monitoring the charging scheme in Wales, data from the first year of which will not be available until the Summer. The Northern Ireland scheme began last month. The Scottish consultation response on the charge is expected in due course.
“We are considering these schemes and the available evidence carefully so that we can make a fully informed decision on a possible charge for England.”
He was responding to a question from Liberal Democrat Baroness Parminter, who said English consumers bore the cost of “retailers buying and storing and local authorities disposing of plastic bags.
“Will the Government therefore introduce a small levy to cut those costs and, crucially, to protect our environment and wildlife?”
Lord de Mauley said he was “not aware of any evidence from Wales that any such savings are being passed on to consumers through lower prices”.
He said he wanted to wait from detailed findings form other schemes because of possible pitfalls.
The Republic of Ireland’s levy had had the unintended consequence of causing an increase in sales of bin liners “because consumers no longer used free carrier bags to line their bins,” the minister said.
“The production of bin liners has a bigger environmental impact than single-use carrier bags. In addition, following the introduction of the charge in Wales there was an increase in sales of bags for life.
“As the aim of a charge is to reduce use, it could result in a worse environmental outcome if they are used only once or twice, because they need to be used at least four times to have a lower carbon footprint than single-use carrier bags”.
Most other peers who spoke supported the idea of a levy, but Conservative Baroness Trumpington, a former environment minister, said she found single use plastic bags useful.
“How else am I going to get the loose grapes I have bought home without ruining my clothes and a few other things,” she asked.
Ministers in January came under pressure to introduce a levy on single use bags from a consortium of pressure groups, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society and Surfers Against Sewage.