Sunak’s consitutional moment?

Paul Cotterill
2 min readSep 20, 2023

1/ Can’t help feeling that’s Sunak’s “I’ve scrapped the 7 bins thing” may turn out to be quite a large constitutional faux pas, and bigger than the more general ministerial code breaking complained about by Chris Bryan MP here, around not making a major policy announcement in parliament before holding a press conference.

2/ To recap, this scrapping commitment is not about something entirely made up, but a reference to section 57 of the Environment Act 2021, which amends section 45 of the Environment Act 1990.

3/ This amendment does make legal provision for councils (with exceptions) having a new duty on “separate collection of household waste”, and 6 types are referred to (not sure how he got 7, but let’s not quibble.

4/ The section is not yet in force, because Therese Coffey has not yet made the relevant regulations, or even responded to the consultation which took place in line with paras 3–6 ofSec 45AZC of the 1990 Act as amended by the 2021 Act

5/ But the big point is that the regulations will affect only the way in which the separation of waste is conducted, while the requirement that they *should* be separated into very specific streams is set out in the primary Act of parliament.

6/ So what we have from Sunak today, in the hurriedly drafted “I’ve scrapped it” speech, is a very explicit act by a Prime Minister aimed at overturning the will of parliament, and indeed, given the past tense, an assertion that he has done so.

7/ Yes, it’s only about the number of bins (actually it’s more about councils’ capacity to recycle at depots but again let’s not quibble) but it actually also feels like a pretty big constitutional cock up,



Paul Cotterill

Secretary General, Habermasian Labour (UK). Indefatigably focused on the promotion of ethical discourse in the public sphere, except when there's cricket.