2nd Jul, 2022

Ex Coventry Liberal councillor says he campaigned for plastic bottle tax 31 years ago

Felix Nobes 29th Mar, 2018 Updated: 29th Mar, 2018

A FORMER Liberal councillor in Coventry says his party was 37 years ahead of the Conservatives’ plastic bottle tax.

Ex-city councillor and long time environmental activist Robert Wheway wants to remind Labour and the Conservatives it was his party and Liberal Peer Lord Beaumont who introduced a Beverage Container Bill in 1981.

In Coventry, Mr Wheway – once known to some as the greenest councillor in the city – organised grassroots Liberals to campaign for the bill.

It was eventually defeated in the House of Lords.

The Liberal Party was one of the two main parties in the UK until the early 20th Century.

It did not enjoy electoral success again until the 1980s when it formed an allegiance with the emerging Social Democratic Party.

Mr Wheway was Coventry’s first elected Liberal councillor in 59 years when he won the Woodlands seat in November 1985.

He says he proposed the bottle tax for Coventry again in 1987 but neither Conservative nor Labour councillors supported the idea.

Mr Wheway said: “The bill in 1981 proposed a deposit on beverage containers that today’s government has only just got round to thinking about.

“I was pleased to support Lord Beaumont at that time and also gathered support from voluntary organisations concerned about the amount of broken bottles lying in parks and places where children play.

“It was quite obvious then that action needed to be taken urgently to protect the environment.

“Our country would be much less polluted if Labour and Conservatives had supported the Liberal initiative then.”

He added: “Back in 1981 most people remember taking their empty bottles back to the shop and getting money back.

“People I spoke to thought it was just commonsense to bring back the deposit.

“They saw bottles being thrown down in the street and places such as the Butts Park and Hearsall Common and knew it had got much worse since the advent of the “throwaway” bottle.

“Obviously now many are too young to remember this change.”

Mr Wheway continues to campaign for environmental sustainability and he has conducted research on encouraging children’s play on housing estates – based on his experiences in Coventry.

He is now the director of the Children’s Play Advisory Service – a group created to encourage outdoor recreation for children.

He says he has long proposed traffic should be slowed down in residential areas in Coventry to enable greater freedom for children to play, walk to school and socialise safely.

Consequently, Mr Wheway claims this would increase ‘neighbourliness’ and fight obesity and mental illness with more children able to play outside without anxiety about road safety.

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