The government is under pressure to reconsider exempting small shops from a carrier bag charge when it is introduced in October 2015.

Ministers have dismissed calls from MPs on the Environment Audit Committee to apply a 5p charge to all shops in England that give out single use carrier bags.

The Association of Convenience Stores and National Federation of Retail Newsagents have also backed a universal charge, which has already proven highly successful in Wales.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said they would continue to press ministers to change their plans for a small business exemption.

“Compulsory carrier bag charging is a policy that works. It significantly reduces carrier bag usage, it saves retailers money and it generates money for good causes,” he said.

“We agreed with the MPs on the committee that exempting small businesses from the 5p charge will create confusion for retailers and customers alike.”

NFRN chief executive Paul Baxter is urging retailers to write to their MPs to press for their inclusion in the scheme.

“If small businesses want to be included in the plastic bag levy, now is the time to act. We need to demonstrate to government that the scheme does not need to be burdensome to retailers and that it can actually benefit retailers financially,” he said.

“I would encourage all of our English members to write to their MPs and explain why they want to be included in the scheme.”