HL Deb 06 November 1979 vol 402 cc696-7

2.40 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in order to discourage continual litter particularly in the countryside and to stop waste, they will take action to ensure that all ciders, beers, soft drinks and mineral waters are sold only in bottles and that those bottles carry a 50 pence returnable deposit on them.


My Lords, a detailed study into all aspects of the beverage container question is at present being undertaken by the Packaging and Containers Working Group of the Waste Management Advisory Council. The Government await the group's report, which they hope to receive early next year.


My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply. Is he aware of the potential hazard caused primarily to livestock, to say nothing of the hazard of fire, by bottles which are left lying around in the countryside by picnickers and the like who would have been more likely to return those bottles if a sizeable deposit had been charged? Is he further aware that, on the Continent and in America in particular, the deposits charged are substantial, with the result that there is considerably less litter than exists in this country?


My Lords, yes, indeed; and that is precisely why a study is taking place at present and why we await the results of that study with such interest.


My Lords, do I understand from the Minister's reply that a Quango has been set up to consider the question of empty beer bottles?


My Lords, if a Quango was set up—and if a Quango it is—it was set up under the previous Administration.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, can the noble Lord tell us whether the Government are giving any encouragement to local authorities to set up schemes for collecting bottles? I know that I argued from his side of the Dispatch Box that it was not economic so to do. However, there is a danger. There are a great many of such bottles around now and some authorities are starting to collect bottles and establish bottle banks. What encouragement is the department giving them?


My Lords, I think that I can best answer by saying that this Government, in the same way as did the previous Government, are encouraging the "Keep Britain Tidy" campaign by making what might be considered a rather substantial contribution to the funds for doing that. Indeed, one hopes that we shall continue not only to give such support but to see that it is extended all the way round, because the problem is indeed one that ought to receive much consideration.


My Lords, would not the Minister consider that it would be in tune with current Conservative thinking if they asked schoolchildren to collect the bottles in exchange for their midday meal?