Michael Gove vows to cut out single-use plastic for Lent

Labour accuses environment minister of failing to take decisive action during his time leading department

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Wednesday 06 March 2019 16:46 GMT
Michael Gove talks about vow to cut out single-use plastic for Lent while using plastic cup

Michael Gove has vowed to cut down on single-use plastics for Lent during an environment committee meeting.

The environment secretary said he would reduce his plastic use over the period after he was asked about his pledge by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

“I understand, secretary of state, that you are giving up single-use plastic for Lent, so we will watch you in the next 40 days to make sure you don’t use any single-use plastic,” said Conservative MP Neil Parish, the committee chair.

“I think that’s quite a challenge.”

Mr Gove agreed and said he would “seek to minimise” single-use plastics in the coming weeks.

Mr Parish mocked the minister for “qualifying” his initial promise, stating “you’re either giving it up or you’re not giving it up”.

Mr Gove has previously been reprimanded for bringing a plastic cup to an environment committee session. On a previous occasion he blamed his vessel choice on the House of Commons canteen.

But parliament had promised to “virtually eliminate” plastics from the building by 2019 and replace them with compostable items.

During this hearing, Mr Gove drank from a disposable cup made out of PLA, a renewable alternative to plastic.

The minister was being questioned by the committee about the draft environment bill he launched in December.

Since taking up his role, Mr Gove has been vocal about the “scourge” of single-use plastic, claiming he was “haunted” by the images of marine animals affected by pollution on Blue Planet II.

However, campaigners have been critical of the government’s attempts to curb plastic.

The most recent Budget saw the chancellor announce a new tax on unrecycled plastic, but critics said this fell far short of the kind of action needed to solve the “plastic pollution crisis”.

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As the committee hearing took place, Labour claimed that after 20 months in the post Mr Gove had brought forward 76 consultations on everything from plastic bottles to animal welfare.

However, over this period he has only passed one piece of primary legislation, the Ivory Act.

Sue Hayman, Labour’s shadow environment secretary, said Mr Gove had become the “secretary of state for consultations”.

“This analysis raises serious questions about his ability to force through his policies in a government that is tearing itself apart over Brexit,” she said.

A Conservative spokesperson called Labour’s analysis “risible”, and listed achievements including a microbeads ban and mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses.

“Government has legal obligations to consult – if you don’t, the actions you take are subject to judicial review,” they said.

“Would Labour rather we didn’t consult and therefore see our ivory ban, deposit return scheme and single-use plastic bans overturned in the courts?”

  • This story has been updated after previously stating Mr Gove drank from a plastic cup during the meeting. We now understand this is not the case.

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