Under-Secretary about junk mail responsibility deal (2)

To this day I'm puzzled by the response I received. The reason for not responding to my interesting points and questions is that public funding is under extreme pressure. Defra therefore has to focus on key priorities, and as the department feels there's no clear market failure Defra is taking no further proactive action. What Mr Stewart appears to say is that the voluntary agreement with the junk mail industry has been scrapped; it's not a priority and the department feels that self-regulation is working fine.

For what it's worth, the statement in the last paragraph is factually incorrect; at the time of writing (11 August) Defra had not sent me an acknowledgement letter via email – the email was sent on 14 August. (In other words, Mr Stewart incorrectly claims that the issue had been dealt with at the time of writing. It seems that he had to wake up his department's Information Rights team!)

Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs
Nobel House
17 Smith Square
LONDON
SW1P 3JR

Our ref: MC381199/GM

11 August 2015

Clive Lewis MP
House of Commons
LONDON
SW1A 0AA

From Rory Stewart OBE MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs

Dear Clive,

Thank you for your letter of 17 July to the Secretary of State on behalf of your constituent, Mr R, about Defra's reluctance to talk to him about the launch of the Direct Marketing Association's (DMA) single consumer opt-out website. I am replying as the Minister responsible for resource management policy.

As Mr R will know, the voluntary agreement between the DMA and the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments (available to view at www.gov.uk) is aimed at waste prevention, sustainable production and distribution and recycling. As a voluntary agreement, it relies on industry taking action. As part of this agreement, the DMA aimed to introduce a single consumer opt-out website by April 2012. The deal also included a Defra commitment to engage with other parts of industry that are delivering unaddressed printed material to householders with a view to improving the environmental performance of these and other delivery channels. This was not a precursor to the DMA launching an opt-out on direct marketing. However, without similar action from other paper sectors, the DMA considered that the launch of its single consumer opt-out website would have a neglible effect and would impact DMA members negatively. Therefore it was agreed that Defra would take no further action and the DMA would postpone the scheme for the time being. The scheme could be revived if any party though it appropriate to do so.

While a new single consumer opt-out website is no longer being taken forward at the present time, the separate opt-out systems operated by the DMA and Royal Mail will continue.

I would like to thank Mr R for the other interesting points and questions he raises. However, as I am sure you will appreciate, public funding is under extrme pressure and the Government must make sure that the limited funding available for Defra's waste management activities is focused on the key priorities that only the Government can and must do. This recognises that the Government's role should reduce as businesses increasingly realise the economic and commercial opportunities that arise from resource efficiencies and tackling environmental challenges. We do not consider there to be a clear market failure in this area and believe that business is best placed to act. While we continue to monitor delivery against the remaining parts of the voluntary agreement, Defra is taking no further proactive action in this area.

With regard to the email Mr R sent in June this year about a review of the Freedom of Information request he submitted on 2 April, an acknowledgement letter has been sent via email and the review will be completed as soon as possible.

Rory Stewart MP