Written questions and answers

Written questions allow Members of Parliament to ask government ministers for information on the work, policy and activities of government departments.

Historical written answers can be found in Hansard.

Find the latest written questions and answers for the 2017-19 session below. We welcome your feedback on this service.

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UIN

Unique Identifying Number – Every written question in the House of Commons has a UIN per Parliament. In the House of Lords each written questions has a UIN per parliamentary session.
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Q
Asked by Norman Lamb
(North Norfolk)
[N]
Close

Named Day

'Named day' questions only occur in the House of Commons. The MP tabling the question specifies the date on which they should receive an answer. MPs may not table more than five named day questions on a single day.

Asked on: 28 March 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Domestic Waste
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with reference to page 20 of the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government's Litter Strategy for England, published in April 2017, what definition his Department uses for household waste; and if he will make a statement.
A
Answered by: Dr Thérèse Coffey
Answered on: 16 April 2018

The definition of household waste is set out in section 75(5) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. In that Act, household waste means waste from domestic properties, caravans, residential homes and premises forming part of a university, school, other educational establishment, hospital or nursing home.

Schedule 1 to the Controlled Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2012 further prescribes what types of waste should be treated as household waste, subject to the place where it is produced or the nature of the activity producing the waste.

Asked on: 21 March 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Plastics: Seas and Oceans
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government when, and how, they intend to respond to the projection by the Government Office for Science that plastic in the ocean is set to treble by 2025.
A
Answered on: 04 April 2018

The Future of the Sea report shows that tough global action is needed to protect our oceans and marine life, and the UK is leading the way by tackling plastic waste. That’s why our 25 Year Environment Plan stated our ambition to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste. We want to be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.

We have recently introduced one of the world’s strongest bans on harmful microbeads in rinse-off personal care products, and have now commissioned the Hazardous Substances Advisory Committee to review the evidence on microplastics in leave-on cosmetics and domestic cleaning products, and their chances of reaching our seas and causing harm to marine life. We will review our position in light of their advice.

Our 5p carrier bag charge has taken nine billion bags out of circulation. A beach clean survey in 2016 reported a 40% reduction in the number of plastic bags found. We will consider extending this charge to small retailers, exploring whether compulsory options are needed if voluntary agreements prove ineffective.

Single use items are a major issue for marine litter and frequently in the top 10 of items found during beach cleans. In his Spring Statement, the Chancellor launched a call for evidence seeking views on how the tax system or charges could reduce the waste from single use plastics.

We will introduce a deposit return scheme to increase recycling rates and slash the amount of waste polluting our land and seas, subject to consultation later this year.

As marine litter is a transboundary problem we also work productively with other countries to address it, particularly through the Oslo and Paris Conventions for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR), G7, G20 and the UN Environment Programme.

Q
Asked by David Simpson
(Upper Bann)
Asked on: 27 March 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Graffiti: Urban Areas
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether his Department is taking steps to support the removal of graffiti tagging to clean up (a) towns and (b) cities in the UK.
A
Answered by: Dr Thérèse Coffey
Answered on: 04 April 2018

We have recently increased the fixed penalties that local authorities can issue for littering, graffiti and fly-posting. From 1 April 2018, the maximum fixed penalty will nearly double from £80 to £150, and the default penalty will increase from £75 to £100. From April 2019, the minimum fixed penalty will also increase from £50 to £65.

Councils retain the income from these Fixed Penalty Notices, which must be spent on their functions relating to keeping land and highways of litter and refuse (including enforcement), and enforcement against graffiti and fly-posting offences. We are clear that any enforcement action must be proportionate and in the public interest.

Graffiti removal is also typical of the types of projects assigned to offenders taking part in Community Payback schemes. Community Rehabilitation Companies are responsible for assigning offenders who have been sentenced to carry out unpaid work as part of their community sentences to specific work assignments, so it would be for local councils to work with the relevant Community Rehabilitation Company to arrange this.

Q
Asked by Lord Mawson
Asked on: 20 March 2018
Department for Transport
Roads: Litter
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that the highest environmental standards apply to motorways and highways of England with respect to litter.
A
Answered by: Baroness Sugg
Answered on: 03 April 2018

Highways England are responsible for complying with the mandatory legal requirements under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which includes removing litter on England’s motorways and some trunk roads.

As part of the Government’s Litter Strategy (2017), the Department for Transport will be working with Highways England and other stakeholders to update the Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse.

Q
Asked by Alex Chalk
(Cheltenham)
Asked on: 22 March 2018
Department for Education
Schools: Plastics
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps the Government is taking to discourage the use of single use plastics in schools.
A
Answered by: Nadhim Zahawi
Answered on: 03 April 2018

The Government’s Twenty Five Year Environment Plan sets out our ambition to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste. This requires action across all stakeholders including producers and consumers. The government will work to remove all consumer single use plastics from the central government estate offices.

The School Food Standards require that drinking water must be supplied free of charge at all times to school pupils, and we are aware that many schools encourage pupils to use reusable bottles.

As part of the science curriculum, children are taught about the scientific concepts that relate to the environment. At key stage 2, pupils should explore examples of the human impact on environments, which can include the negative impact of litter. At present, around 75% of schools in England are members of the Eco-Schools programme. We would like to increase participation in this programme overall and are working actively on anti-littering awareness, including participating in litter picks.

Q
Asked by Zac Goldsmith
(Richmond Park)
[N]
Close

Named Day

'Named day' questions only occur in the House of Commons. The MP tabling the question specifies the date on which they should receive an answer. MPs may not table more than five named day questions on a single day.

Asked on: 26 March 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Animal Welfare: Litter
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent estimate his Department has made of the number of (a) injuries and (b) deaths caused to (i) farmed animals and (ii) wild animals by (A) plastic and (B) other forms of litter.
A
Answered by: Dr Thérèse Coffey
Answered on: 29 March 2018

Defra does not hold information on the number of injuries and deaths caused to farmed and wild animals by plastic and other forms of litter. However, we do know that plastic can cause injuries and death and that is why we are taking action to reduce plastic pollution.

Q
Asked by Scott Mann
(North Cornwall)
Asked on: 28 February 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Plastics: Beaches
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what estimate his Department has made of the quantity of plastics washed up on UK beaches in each year since 2015.
A
Answered by: Dr Thérèse Coffey
Answered on: 19 March 2018

Data from Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean show consistent levels of litter on UK beaches. The information is in the table below:

Year

Number of litter items per 100 meters

2017

718

2016

649

2015

676

MCS have found that plastic fragments, fishing-related litter and packaging are the most common types of litter found, with variable trends in the specific categories. This is consistent with the findings in our recent National Environment Indicators.

Q
Asked by Anna McMorrin
(Cardiff North)
Asked on: 05 March 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Glass: Recycling
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the merits of a deposit return scheme for glass bottles.
A
Answered by: Dr Thérèse Coffey
Answered on: 13 March 2018

Defra continues to work closely with the devolved administrations in delivering our shared ambitions to improve waste and recycling outcomes and promote resource efficiency in the UK.

Last autumn an independent working group set up under the Litter Strategy for England held a call for evidence on measures to reduce littering of drinks containers and promote recycling. The focus was rigid and flexible plastic, glass or metal drinks containers that are sold sealed and used for the sale of alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages, often for consumption ‘on the go’. This included seeking evidence on the costs, benefits and impacts of deposit return schemes. The working group has submitted its report to Ministers, who will make a decision on next steps shortly.

Q
Asked by Lord Swinfen
Asked on: 26 February 2018
Ministry of Justice
Community Orders
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether community service sentences may include picking up litter in (1) rural, and (2) urban, areas.
A
Answered by: Lord Keen of Elie
Answered on: 12 March 2018

Where a court imposes an unpaid work requirement as part of a community sentence or suspended sentence order, the local Community Rehabilitation Company provides work placements in accordance with a range of criteria including:

  • that the work benefits the local community;
  • that the work undertaken is not a direct substitution for paid employment; and
  • the views of local people and community stakeholders such as the police are taken into account.

Any proposal for unpaid work involving litter collection would have to be considered with reference to the requirements for unpaid work placements which form part of the service specifications and can be found at https://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/offenders/probation-instructions/pi_02_2010_unpaid_work_community_payback_service_specification.pdf.

Q
Asked by Julian Sturdy
(York Outer)
Asked on: 22 February 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Bottles: Plastics
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the feasibility of setting a precise date for the complete phasing out of single-use plastic bottles.
A
Answered by: Dr Thérèse Coffey
Answered on: 02 March 2018

This Government has not undertaken an assessment of the feasibility of setting a precise date for the complete phasing out of single-use plastic bottles.

In autumn 2017 an independent working group set up under the Litter Strategy for England held a call for evidence on measures to reduce littering of drinks containers and promote recycling. This included seeking evidence on the costs, benefits and impacts of deposit return schemes. The working group has recently submitted its report to Ministers, who will make a decision on next steps shortly.

Q
Asked by Julian Sturdy
(York Outer)
Asked on: 21 February 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Microplastics: Marine Environment
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what plans his Department has to include steps on microplastic fibres pollution as part of its work on reducing the effect of plastic waste.
A
Answered by: Dr Thérèse Coffey
Answered on: 01 March 2018

As part of the work on reducing the effect of plastic waste and to prioritise areas for further action, Defra has been reviewing documented sources of microplastic pollution entering the environment. It is clear that microplastics in various forms, including microplastic fibres arising from laundering textiles, are a significant source of freshwater and marine litter around the world. Other sources also need to be considered to help reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the environment.

There are Evidence gaps in this area so we have commissioned research which will inform future policy options to further reduce the impact of plastic waste.

Q
Asked by Julian Sturdy
(York Outer)
Asked on: 21 February 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Microplastics: Marine Environment
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of microplastic fibres on the world's oceans.
A
Answered by: Dr Thérèse Coffey
Answered on: 27 February 2018

It is clear that microplastics in various forms, including microfibres, are a significant and prevalent source of marine litter around the world.

As part of the enhanced chemicals programme the Environment Agency will look more at the contribution of sewage treatment to microplastic. As with many chemicals the most effective solution is to reduce the sources of plastic getting into drainage systems in the first place.

Q
Asked by Steve McCabe
(Birmingham, Selly Oak)
Asked on: 08 February 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Plastics: Bottles
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that fewer plastic bottles (a) are incinerated, (b) go to landfill and (c) littered on land or at sea.
A
Answered by: Dr Thérèse Coffey
Answered on: 26 February 2018

As part of the Litter Strategy for England, the Government has established the independent Voluntary and Economic Incentives working group. In autumn last year this working group held a call for evidence on measures to reduce littering of drinks containers and promote recycling. This included seeking evidence on the costs, benefits and impacts of deposit and reward and return schemes. The working group analysed responses to this call for evidence and provided advice to Ministers on potential incentives for drinks containers, including plastic bottles this month., Ministers are now considering the working group’s report.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme and industry led Consistency Framework has a vision that all households in England are able to recycle the same core set of materials, including plastic bottles. The waste hierarchy places prevention at the top as it offers the best outcome for the environment, followed by preparing for reuse, recycling, other recovery (which includes energy from waste, via incineration) and then disposal. Landfill should only be considered as a last resort.

The Litter Strategy sets out our aim to clean up the country and deliver a substantial reduction in litter and littering within a generation. The Litter Strategy brings together communities, businesses, charities and schools to bring about real change by focusing on three key themes: education and awareness, improving enforcement, and better cleaning and access to bins. A copy of the Litter Strategy can be found at www.gov.uk/government/publications/litter-strategy-for-england.

As marine litter is a transboundary problem we work with other countries to address it, particularly through the Oslo and Paris Conventions for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, G7, G20 and the UN Environment Programme.

Q
Asked by Mrs Anne Main
(St Albans)
Asked on: 19 February 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Plastics
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether his Department has a target for the reduction of single use plastics.
A
Answered by: Dr Thérèse Coffey
Answered on: 26 February 2018

This Government is a world leader in tackling plastic waste, not only banning microbeads, but also taking 9 billion plastic bags out of circulation with our 5p carrier bag charge.

On 11 January we published our 25 Year Environment Plan that stated our ambition to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042 and, in particular, the waste from single-use plastics. The steps we will be taking to do this include exploring the introduction of plastic-free aisles by retailers; exploring how we can develop our producer responsibility schemes to give producers more incentives to design more resource efficient products; and extending the carrier bag charge to small retailers.

In the 25 Year Environment Plan the Government also announced a plan to remove all consumer single use plastics from the central government estate offices. Defra Group are carrying out a full analysis of single use plastic through our supply chain and setting a requirement that new catering services exclude all consumer single use plastics. We work closely with other government departments and their agencies through the Greening Government Commitments to reduce their impacts on the environment.

In autumn 2017 an independent working group set up under the Litter Strategy for England held a call for evidence on measures to reduce littering of drinks containers and promote recycling. This included seeking evidence on the costs, benefits and impacts of deposit return schemes. Ministers are now considering the working group’s report.

Q
(Preston)
Asked on: 19 February 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Litter
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which Ministers of his Department have taken part in (a) beach cleans and (b) other activities to remove plastic and other litter from the environment since June 2015; and what steps he is taking to enable officials of his Department to take part in such activities.
A
Answered by: Dr Thérèse Coffey
Answered on: 26 February 2018

We are supportive of initiatives that seek to encourage the clean-up of both land and sea. Ministers and officials have carried out litter-picks as part of Clean for the Queen in 2016 and the Great British Spring Clean, the Big Spring Beach Clean and the Great British Beach Clean in 2017. Ministers also participate in local beach cleans and litter-picks taking place in their own constituencies, and all staff are encouraged to take part in litter-picks in their local areas. Staff are also allocated volunteer days which they can use for similar activities.

Q
Asked by Dan Jarvis
(Barnsley Central)
[N]
Close

Named Day

'Named day' questions only occur in the House of Commons. The MP tabling the question specifies the date on which they should receive an answer. MPs may not table more than five named day questions on a single day.

Asked on: 20 February 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Recycling: Incentives
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of using monetary incentives to encourage people to recycle.
A
Answered by: Dr Thérèse Coffey
Answered on: 23 February 2018

Defra launched the Reward and Recognition Fund (RRF) that encouraged local authorities and community groups to devise and assess innovative ideas for reward and recognition initiatives that would encourage positive waste behaviours such as recycling or reuse. The RRF awarded £1.6 million to 25 organisations, delivering 31 unique pilots. The final waste reward and recognition fund evaluation report was published in May 2016 and is available on http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=13764_RRFFinalReport.pdf

The report concludes that although Reward and Recognition can play a useful role in communications and engagement with householders or communities building valuable social capital, it does need careful thought and management to achieve the best outcome. The final report also highlights important points to consider before taking the decision to set up such schemes, providing evidence and conclusions which can be used by local authorities and community groups.

In autumn 2017, an independent working group set up under the Litter Strategy for England held a call for evidence on measures to reduce littering of drinks containers and promote recycling. This included seeking evidence on the costs, benefits and impacts of deposit return schemes. The Working Group has recently submitted their report to Ministers, who will be making a decision on the next steps shortly.

Q
(Hornsey and Wood Green)
[N]
Close

Named Day

'Named day' questions only occur in the House of Commons. The MP tabling the question specifies the date on which they should receive an answer. MPs may not table more than five named day questions on a single day.

Asked on: 07 February 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Bottles: Recycling
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether the Government plans intends to implement a plastic bottle deposit scheme in the UK similar to that in operation in Norway.
A
Answered by: Dr Thérèse Coffey
Answered on: 20 February 2018

As part of the Litter Strategy for England, the Government has established the independent Voluntary and Economic Incentives working group.

From 2 October 2017 to 20 November 2017 this working group held a call for evidence on measures to reduce littering of drinks containers and promote recycling. The focus was rigid and flexible plastic, and glass or metal drinks containers that are sold sealed, and used for the sale of alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages often for consumption ‘on the go’. This included seeking evidence on the costs, benefits and impacts of deposit and reward and return schemes.

The working group is currently analysing responses to this call for evidence and is due to provide advice to Ministers on potential incentives for drinks containers early this year.

Q
(Chippenham)
Asked on: 02 February 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Supermarkets: Plastic Bags
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if his Department will take steps to ensure that supermarket bags for life are made from fabric rather than plastic.
A
Answered by: Dr Thérèse Coffey
Answered on: 12 February 2018

The Government has no specific plans to ensure that supermarket bags for life are made from fabric rather than plastic. All bags have environmental impacts during their life cycle. The charge for single use plastic bags aims to encourage the re-use of all bags and thereby reduce waste and littering. Our 25 Year Environment Plan sets out measures to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042.

Q
Asked on: 24 January 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Roads: Litter
Lords
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Gardiner of Kimble on 22 January (HL4503), when they expect to receive the results of the independent assessment by Keep Britain Tidy of the cleanliness of trunk roads maintained by Highways England and of litter collection by local councils.
A
Answered on: 05 February 2018

Surveying is about to be undertaken, and we expect the outcome of the assessment to be available later this year.

Q
Asked by Steve McCabe
(Birmingham, Selly Oak)
Asked on: 25 January 2018
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Plastics: Bottles
Commons
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if he will bring forward legislative proposals for introducing a deposit return scheme for all PET plastic drinks bottles.
A
Answered by: Dr Thérèse Coffey
Answered on: 02 February 2018

As part of the Litter Strategy for England, the Government has established the independent Voluntary and Economic Incentives working group.

From 2 October to 20 November 2017 this working group held a call for evidence on measures to reduce littering of drinks containers and promote recycling. The focus was rigid and flexible plastic, glass or metal drinks containers that are sold sealed and used for the sale of alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages, often for consumption ‘on the go’. This included seeking evidence on the costs, benefits and impacts of deposit and reward and return schemes.

The working group is currently analysing responses to this call for evidence, and is due to provide advice to Ministers on potential incentives for drinks containers shortly.

Defra continues to work closely with the devolved administrations in delivering our shared ambitions to improve recycling outcomes in the UK.

The Government is developing a new Resources and Waste Strategy that will be published this year. This will set out the detail of how we will meet the ambitions for resources and waste that are set out in the Clean Growth Strategy, Industrial Strategy and the 25 Year Environment Plan.

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