The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has vowed to continue lobbying Parliament to ensure charges for carrier bags are implemented across the entire retail sector in England.
The ACS wants all retailers to have to charge 5p for carrier bags, as has been the case in Wales since 2011, and in Scotland, since October.
But under the Single Use Carrier Bag Charge Order (2015), businesses in England with fewer than 250 employees will be exempt from imposing a charge.
Environment minister Dan Rogerson failed to acknowledge the concerns MPs and business groups raised on the issue of an exemption for smaller retailers in a parliamentary debate this morning (10 March) in a delegated legislation committee.
Rogerson made no comment whatsoever on the widespread support for a universal carrier bag charge.
James Lowman, ACS chief executive, said: “Compulsory carrier-bag charging is a policy that works. It significantly reduces carrier-bag usage, it saves retailers money and it generates money for good causes.”
Exempting small businesses from the 5p charge would create confusion for retailers and customers.
“Ministers’ aim to not add regulatory burdens on small business can be achieved through exempting them from the reporting requirements only. We will continue to press ministers to change their plans for a small business exemption,” Lowman said.
The Grocer understands the ACS was originally in two minds about whether an exemption would be something that should be supported because of a potential competitive advantage to giving free carrier bags when larger stores charged but when it polled retailers in Wales, it found that imposing the charge had been positive for them.
A spokesman said: “They can recover the costs of the bags they charge for and they can use the extra money for charity and local fund raising.”
He added that some convenience stores in England were voluntarily charging for bags. “If it had a negative impact on stores, you wouldn’t see if anywhere,” he said.