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Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says he hopes the money raised from the proposed 5p charge on plastic bags will be given to good causes.
The charge was unveiled at the Lib Dem conference today but government sources have acknowledged they are powerless to force retailers to hand over the money.
Clegg said: "We will discuss with retailers how the money raised should be spent but I call on them to follow the lead of industry in Wales and donate the proceeds to charity."
A compulsory 5p charge on plastic bags in Wales has been hailed a success since the scheme was introduced in 2011.
Welsh Labour Assembly Member John Griffiths said there was "no reason why the charge wouldn't work just as well in other parts of the UK".
Since Wales introduced the 5p plastic bag charge:
- The use of plastic bags reduced from 270 million to 70 million;
- Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised for environmental groups from the bag charge proceeds; and
- Cardiff University found 82 per cent of shoppers brought their own bags, up from 61 per cent before 2011.
"A plastic bag charge is welcome news, but let's not get carried away," spokesman Craig Bennett said.
"If Nick Clegg wants to champion the environment he must do much better - starting by allowing Lib Dem peers to back a 2030 target for decarbonising the power sector when the Energy Bill reaches the House of Lords."
Labour MPs have given a mixed reception to the government's plan, put forward by Nick Clegg, to introduce a 5p charge for supermarket plastic bags.
Lib Dems talking about plastic bag tax. If you shop at Lidl, you already pay 6p and 3p for them. Not that @nick_clegg would know that.
Amazing news as Lib-Dem Conference opens a 5p tax on plastic bags from 2015 no one will now remember all the broken pledges @bbcr4today
Please note: Wales already has a 5p charge for carrier bags. Labour Welsh Government policy. Great success in cutting plastic bags.
A coalition of environmental charities has welcomed the proposed introduction of a 5p charge for supermarket bags in England.
We are delighted that the Government has finally listened to the Break The Bag Habit campaign and the thousands of supporters who've written letters and signed petitions calling for this moment.
Finally the Government will help improve the environments we all love so much by implementing a policy that the Break The Bag Habit has shown to be popular with the public and effective in reducing litter.