Tom Richmond: Join the plastics fight...before the Government messes it up

Britain should not wait for the Government to take the lead on the recycling of plastic bottles.
Britain should not wait for the Government to take the lead on the recycling of plastic bottles.
Have your say

“WE want the townsman to love rural England as he finds it, and not bespattered with paper and bottles”.

So said the then Duke of Norfolk more than 70 years ago when the Campaign to Protect Rural England was tasked with leading the fight against litter.

Fast forward seven decades and the tide is finally beginning to turn as Environment Secretary Michael Gove proposes a deposit return scheme for single-use drinks containers.

Prompted by Sir David Attenborough’s acclaimed Blue Planet II series on marine pollution, Gove is now launching a consultation exercise on how best to recycle more of the 13 billion plastic drinks bottles used by consumers in the UK each year. Sorry, but a long-winded consultation exercise – Government-speak for scaling back good intentions – will undermine the positive momentum that has been generated in recent months.

As Defra tries to devise a nationwide scheme, it should also be putting the onus on local businesses to set up recycling schemes in the interim. What’s to stop supermarkets accepting used bottles now in return for a voucher to be spent in their store? It’s a ‘win, win’ – less plastic being discarded in the countryside and the goodwill of customers committed to enhancing the environment.

Don’t tell me the big stores can’t spare the space for a skip – and a member of staff to supervise such a scheme? It’s the same with local councils – they should be working with their communities to come up with more effective recycling initiatives now rather than waiting for Ministers to tell them what to do, and then whinging about a lack of resources. As such, this is one occasion when the country shouldn’t be waiting for the Government to act. As Ministers ponder, the tide of public opinion should be utilised so councils, communities and companies can join forces and start winning a war against plastic before Gove finalises his battleplan.

JEREMY Corbyn is no stranger to protests outside the Houses of Parliament. From Margaret Thatcher to Theresa May’s premiership, he has found himself at the forefront of countless rallies on the whole gamut of social and humanitarian issues.

Yet, while Prime Ministers and governments are accustomed to demonstrators such as Corbyn exercising their right to peaceful protest, it’s unprecedented for the main Opposition party to be the focus of public discord and grievance. And the very fact that Jewish community leaders felt the need to protest against the Labour leader’s apparently lily-livered stance of anti-Semitism speaks volumes about the current mistrust. Given Corbyn’s haste when he sacked Owen Smith from the Shadow Cabinet for dissenting over Brexit, Bassetlaw MP John Mann had a point when he told protesters: “The Labour Party ceases to have a reason for existence if it cannot stand up against discrimination and racism.”

A MEASURE of the Sheffield tree-felling scandal is that it was mentioned on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning – and the London-obsessed BBC presenter actually brought up the issue himself.

Given his previous indifference to Northern affairs, most notably the fallout from the 2015 floods that he did not even put to David Cameron, the then Prime Minister, Labour is in deep trouble here.

AN interesting intervention from Speaker John Bercow after Culture Secretary Matt Hancock praised Shipley MP Philip Davies for his unstinting work to secure £4m of Government funding for the former Bradford Odeon building to be converted into a 4,000-capacity music and events venue.

“The Secretary of State might one day want his vote,” teased Bercow. I can only assume it was a tantalising reference to Hancock’s brazen leadership ambitions.

I WAS truly shocked to hear from an acquaintance who works for a supply teaching agency about the boss of a private nursery in Leeds who assesses the postcodes of applicants before determining which candidates should be invited for interview. Not only is this the worst form of snobbery, and an affront to social mobility campaigners such as Justine Greening, the former Education Secretary who hails from Rotherham, but it totally discriminates against those able people from poor backgrounds whose neighbourhood is no reflection on their talents.

TOADYING Tory MP Rebecca Pow was rather pre-occupied with namechecking her Taunton Deane constituency during this week’s Commons debate on national security. “The horrifying events that recently unfolded in Salisbury, just a short train ride from my constituency, seem all too close to home,” the self-important backbencher began.

At least Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, slumped on the front bench, was sufficiently alert to correct Pow, when she downplayed the number of UK allies who have now expelled Russian diplomats following the chemical weapon attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

THOUGH Selby MP Nigel Adams sat loyally alongside Boris Johnson during the Russia debate, just one Cabinet minister was present for the Foreign Secretary’s speech – Theresa May.

Was the presence of the Prime Minister making sure Johnson didn’t go rogue, a show of unity for the Kremlin’s benefit or May doing her duty and supporting a colleague under fire?

A CONTEMPLATIVE walking holiday in the Welsh hills last Easter convinced Theresa May to call one of the more ill-advised general elections. I can’t see history repeating itself, can you?

Happy Easter.