Congratulations to everyone involved in the decision to introduce a charge for single use bags. The Liberal Democrat conference supported the policy last year, and now the party has seen it through. But the coalition as a whole deserves credit, not least because it was under no pressure from the Opposition to bring in a charge.
CPRE helped found the Break the Bag Habit coalition in August last year. The policy had a lot of support not only from the main national coalition partners – Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society and Surfers Against Sewage – but from Greener Upon Thames (who supported a delegation of school children to David Cameron ten days ago), Zac Goldsmith MP, Lush Cosmetics, and many others.
The Daily Mail is obviously a pretty good ally to have, and it was the Mail that broke the news this morning. Countless local campaigns and initiatives in England also deserve credit, starting with Modbury in Devon, as does the fact that all the other home nations have introduced a charge, something I wrote about on this blog a couple of weeks ago. Hats off, too, to the retailers such as M&S and W. H. Smith who already charge for bags.
To win the campaign little more than a year after the Break the Bag Habit coalition was formed is great news. I remember the lobby of Conservative Conference last year, including a very striking Marge Simpson bag monster, looking suspiciously like Will Gates, then of CPRE and now with WSPA. Victory seemed some way off then.
Two final thoughts. First, this has been a very political campaign. A group of NGOs got together to try to influence political decisions. We lobbied, and were prepared to go on lobbying into the next general election. I don’t believe that the Government’s Lobbying Bill is intended to stop campaigns of this sort, but it might have that effect and it should be withdrawn.
Second, now the Government is willing to introduce a charge for single use bags, will it consider introducing (or reintroducing) deposits for bottles and cans? We know the Prime Minister sympathises with the idea, which is a good start. A charge on carrier bags will undoubtedly reduce the number of bags littering hedgerows, parks and streets. But it will make the discarded bottles and cans even more conspicuous…