Treasury urged to help England Break Bag Habit

Ahead of George Osborne’s Budget on Wednesday, the Break the Bag Habit campaign [1] expresses surprise that the Treasury seems not to know the difference between a tax and a charge.

The Break the Bag Habit campaign is calling for the introduction of a 5p charge on carrier bags in England, following the proven success of the scheme in Wales which has reduced unnecessary waste and litter. Bags are still available when they’re needed – they’re just paid for at the checkout like any other product.

Under the scheme, all retailers would be required to charge on all types of bags, but the Government would not stipulate what happens to the revenue. Thus the Government’s own Office of National Statistics classifies the scheme as a charge, not a tax. Retailers have stated that to reduce levels of bag usage further a scheme of this type is needed – voluntary measures will not deliver the same reduction in usage.

However, Amber Rudd MP, an aide to George Osborne, made a recent statement on carrier bag charging saying that the Treasury ‘doesn’t like introducing new taxes’. Of course, in general this may be good news for most of us but it’s clear the Treasury hasn’t understood the information Break the Bag Habit has sent them about the details of the scheme, let alone what they should know about it from the Government’s monitoring of the Welsh scheme.

CPRE’s Samantha Harding, spokesperson for the campaign, says:

‘Although it should already know this, we have told the Treasury that the Office of National Statistics would approve the scheme as a charge, not a tax, as it did in Wales. Just because it got its fingers burned on pasties and caravans doesn’t mean it should be nervous about introducing this charge. Approval for the Welsh scheme increased to 70% once it was introduced and our polling shows that a majority of people in England already think it’s a good idea.’

Opponents of the scheme say that carrier bags only make up a small proportion of litter but that ignores the damage they do to our wildlife and waterways, their longevity and how visible they are when they are strewn across our towns and countryside. The bag charge is popular with the people who use it, including large and small retailers, and the environmental benefits are proven. If the only reason this Government won’t do anything about it is because it’s confused about the difference between taxes and charges then we should all be really worried.’


The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside. We work locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy. Our members are united in their love for England’s landscapes and rural communities, and stand up for the countryside, so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations. Founded in 1926, President: Sir Andrew Motion, Patron: Her Majesty The

Greener Upon Thames, in the London boroughs of Richmond and Kingston, is a community-driven campaign to reduce plastic bag use, make London and the 2012 Olympics plastic-bag-free, and pressure Government for a ban or levy on single-use plastic bags.

Keep Britain Tidy is the anti-litter charity for England. We are passionate about cleaner greener places and run the Love Where You Live campaign, Eco-Schools, Green Flag Award for parks (in partnership with BTVC and GreenSpace), and Blue Flag/Quality Coast Awards for beaches. TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp is our ambassador. To find out more about us and to become a supporter visit

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) is an environmental charity protecting the UK’s oceans, waves and beaches for all to enjoy safely and sustainably, via community action, campaigning, volunteering, conservation, education and scientific

Thames21 is one of the country’s leading waterway charities. We work with communities across Greater London to improve our rivers, canals, ponds and lakes for people and wildlife.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is the UK charity dedicated to the protection of our seas, shores and wildlife. MCS campaigns for clean seas and beaches, sustainable fisheries, and protection of marine life. Through education, community involvement and collaboration, MCS raises awareness of the many threats that face our seas and promotes individual, industry and government action to protect the marine environment.