The government has promised the London Councils that a minimum charge will be imposed on retailers if they do not make a significant voluntary cut in the number of plastic bags they use.

This pledge from Environmental Minister Jane Kennedy prompted the London Councils to withdraw its London Shopping Bill from parliament.

The bill had called for a ban on plastic bags being used in the city with exemptions for unpackaged food and waste disposal. It was due to go before parliament on Wednesday of this week.

London Councils welcomed the commitment, which would have a nationwide impact rather than just in the city, but added that they will hold the government to its promise.

“We are accepting the government at its word, and fully expect them to take action against retailers should they fail to reduce numbers voluntarily,” said London Councils’ chairman Merrick Cockell. “The government must never forget the depth of public feeling on this issue. We will continue to hold them to account should they fail to deliver on their promise.”

ACS public affairs director Shane Brennan welcomed the decision to remove the bill saying that “a London specific solution would do more harm than good”.