Thank you for contacting me about Amazon and employee working conditions.
Just because a business operates online, does not mean its responsibilities to society are any less. Amazon has close to a one-third market share of e-commerce in this country and I read the points you raised with interest.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the independent regulator for work-related health, safety and wellbeing. HSE has published guidance on warehouse safety which employers must follow. This includes detailed information on how to carry and load and how to mitigate risks, including how to prevent injuries. The full guidance can be found online at: https://www.hse.gov.uk/logistics/warehousing.htm
With the additional safety risks posed by Covid-19, I am pleased that the HSE is conducting spot checks and inspections on businesses to ensure they are adhering to Covid-secure guidance and keeping employees safe.
If an employee feels their workplace is not safe, due to health and safety issues or Covid-19 measures, they can report it to their local authority or the HSE to investigate. No employee should feel unsafe at work and, if they do, they may want to initially raise it with their employer to see if any action can be taken to reduce risk and ensure safety.
On taxation, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on individual taxpayers. However, it is right that companies pay the tax that they owe the Exchequer so that the Government can fund the public services that we all rely on and invest into infrastructure, renewables and other schemes to benefit the UK and create jobs. That is why the Digital Services Tax for online companies was introduced to ensure that search engines, social media platforms, and online marketplaces pay UK tax that reflects the value they derive from UK users.
I know the Government expects Amazon, like all organisations who process personal data, to comply with the UK’s Data Protection legislation, including the Data Protection Act 2018 and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
On competition, a new Digital Markets Unit within the Competition and Markets Authority will be established from 2021-22. The Government will consult on proposals for a new pro-competition regime for digital markets in early 2021.
Finally, you mention Amazon’s environmental policy and, for such a profitable multi-national company, it seems only right that they lead the way in championing sustainability and environmental business policies. I welcome the steps that Amazon has taken so far in an effort to decarbonise and encourage the company to continue with its Science-Based Targets commitments and move quickly towards Net Zero, including working with companies in its supply chains.
Destroying Unsold Products.
It is my understanding that my ministerial colleagues are aware of reports of Amazon destroying unsold products and are considering whether there needs to be a change in the law. The environment secretary, George Eustice MP, has said that the Government is also in talks with Amazon about these extraordinary findings.
Businesses that handle waste, including companies like Amazon, are obliged to follow the waste hierarchy, under the Waste Regulations 2011, which requires action to prevent waste as the priority option. Failure to meet the legal obligation to take all reasonable steps to apply these steps can lead to enforcement action from the Environment Agency in England.
It is imperative we end the throwaway culture and recycle more of our waste. I would like to assure you that I am committed to creating a more circular economy for our waste and resources, and by 2035 the Government wants to be recycling at least 65 per cent of our municipal waste with a maximum of 10 per cent going to landfill. Equally, I do not want to see good food go to waste. I am therefore pleased that the Government supports the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and its work with retailers and other food businesses who play a key role in influencing household food waste through interventions such as pack sizing and labelling. These measures all help consumers to buy what they need and use what they buy. Ministers are also supporting the Courtauld 2025 Commitment, delivered by WRAP, which aims to reduce UK food waste by 20 per cent per capita by 2025, based on a 2015 baseline.
I understand that current regulations require sellers of electrical equipment to offer a free take-back service for waste electricals or join the Distributor Takeback Scheme to help fund local authority recycling services. Ministers are looking at the regulations to see how they can make sure all retailers take greater responsibility for electricals. This could include increased doorstep collections and strengthened takeback obligations placed on retailers and internet sellers.
More widely, through the 25 Year Environment Plan, the Government is committed to leaving the environment in a better state than they inherited it. Ministers will help do this by transforming the way we use our waste and resources, and by 2042 they want to have eliminated all avoidable plastic waste, with all avoidable waste being stopped by 2050.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP