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MPs press chancellor on single-use plastics

The Treasury has said it will publish proposals for a tax on single-use plastics “shortly”, after the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) criticised chancellor Phillip Hammond for dragging his feet over the issue.

In his Budget on 22 November, Hammond said he would “investigate how the tax system and charges on single-use plastic items can reduce waste”.

EAC chair Mary Creagh wrote an open letter to Hammond to ask when the proposals would be laid out, which Government department would be responsible and how long the consultation will run for.

Creagh said: “Three months ago, ministers promised to look at using the tax system to reduce the use of throwaway plastics, but still have not published a call for evidence.

“The Government has talked the talk on plastics pollution but has been too slow to walk the walk.”

In response, a Treasury spokesperson said: “Our call for evidence – launching shortly – will build on Britain’s world-leading ban on microbeads and plastic bag charge, forming a major part of the Government’s 25-year environment plan.”

The Treasury said the consultation will examine “the whole lifecycle of single-use plastics”, including packaging, bubble wrap and polystyrene takeaway boxes.

The EAC letter in full:

Dear Phillip

You will be aware of public concern around the impact of plastic pollution on our environment. My committee’s recent inquiry into disposable packaging highlighted the 700,000 plastic bottles that are littered every day. These are just one example of single-use plastics that can end up in our seas and oceans, killing wildlife and breaking down into harmful microplastics.

In your Budget on 22 November you announced:

“I will investigate how the tax system and charges on single-use plastic items can reduce waste, because we cannot keep our promise to the next generation to build an economy fit for the future unless we ensure our planet has a future.”

It is now three months since that announcement. Could you please tell us when the consultation will be launched, for how long it will run and whether it will be the Treasury of Defra who will run the consultation process?

I am copying this letter to Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs.

Yours sincerely,

Mary Creagh MP

Chair of the environmental audit committee

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