Britains Bag Man

untitled (16)According to a news item from Friday, David Cameron has been involved in a meeting to get us to reduce our use of plastic bags. “During a visit to school in Teddington, the Prime Minister said he had been involved in a meeting to discuss the best way of implementing a scheme to charge for plastic bags.” The article goes on to suggest that we will soon be charged for the plastic bags we use. In our house we do work quite hard to make as much use of carrier bags as we can, we use the bags for life from the two main supermarkets we visit most frequently and when we forget these, we store the free bags and reuse them in a number of ways. Recycling them in store would be our last resort. So the good work of the Prime Minister will not be wasted, if we are obliged to pay for the carriers we occasionally need, I suspect it will nudge us into being a bit less forgetful.

The real point of my blog is not to explain how we use plastic bags in our house, as important as that is for our weekly routine and for the environment (assuming that we are not alone in our attention to this issue), but to highlight that the Prime Minister of the 63 Million people who live in this nation, the man who has just returned from the G20 conference and who I hope is focused on the work of the UN in Syria, a man paid £142,500 per year has been holding meetings on the wisdom of charging for the use of plastic bags. Is David Cameron trying to recapture his promise from the 2010 election campaign strapline “vote blue, go green”? Or have his political advisers recycled their PR plan once too often?

images (16)I did a quick check on the Government website and the most recent reference to the use of plastic bags was made in a speech by Caroline Spelman in November 2010, 6 months after the coalition came to office. You have to scan down the speech to almost the last paragraph to find the relevant paragraph which states “And we only have to look at Modbury in Devon to see what consensus can achieve. Modbury’s 43 individual retailers, its residents and local environmentalists all agreed to stop using plastic bags. What started as a pilot three years ago is still going strong today and other towns – both in the UK and in Europe – have asked them for help in launching similar initiatives. Of course different parts of the country will have different environmental priorities – and find individual solutions – but by acting at this local level collectively we can make a national difference.” It seems clear that the decision by the Prime Minister is a policy shift from this speech, away from localism and toward a bigger or at least a controlling state. However what seems most strange and perhaps is the real issue is why did Mr Cameron feel that the four Government Ministers in DEFRA are unsuited to addressing this issue on their own? If these four men are not up to the job, the saving of their salaries would be a good way of slimming down the Government. On the other hand if David Cameron is micromanaging this part of Government policy, what is he doing when it comes to the rest of the work of the coalition? In the light of the recent news that he left his red box in a railway carriage, might he see plastic bags as an expendable alternative to these lead lined locked boxes (following the earlier example of Oliver Letwin perhaps). As we head towards the General Election I think we should be told the answer to these questions in case it helps us to decide who to vote for!

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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