A CAMPAIGN to tackle the problem of litter and flytipping in the UK has hit out at Taunton MP - and Environment Minister - Rebecca Pow.

Clean Up Britain, the national anti-litter organisation, has criticised Ms Pow after it says she failed to arrange a meeting with the group's patron and political journalist, Jeremy Paxman.

Mr Paxman issued an open invitation to Ms Pow in early January to accompany him on a 'litter walk' to see for herself the problem in the UK and discuss solutions.

However, more than six months later, the group says it is still to hear from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Ms Pow says she is happy to meet Mr Paxman but that the pandemic had made arrangements difficult.

Jeremy Paxman said: "Defra has for years been known as the most utterly useless Ministry in government.

"When it comes to litter, all it seems to want to do is to look as if it’s doing something.

"Defra is a waste of a nameplate. It isn’t just that so many of the civil servants are time-serving jobsworths.

"In the last 10 years there have been nine separate Ministers in charge of litter. What on earth can you do in a single year?

"Ms Pow is now just the latest failure."

However, Ms Pow said much was already being done to tackle the problem across the UK.

“I am dedicated to tackling littering in our communities, which not only spoils the countryside and harms wildlife, but also poses a real risk to human health," she said.

“I wrote to Mr Paxman to confirm I am very happy to meet him to discuss these issues and that remains the case. Obviously a meeting at this time has been made more difficult due to the ongoing coronavirus restrictions hence no date yet being agreed.

“Additionally, I am concerned about the increase in litter I have observed when out on my bike - much of which is clearly from takeaway outlets.

"I would urge everyone play their part in taking their litter home and disposing of it in the correct manner.”

John Read, founder of Clean Up Britain, added: "Sadly, it seems that Ms Pow is controlled by her civil servants, and not willing to engage with (the many) people who question DEFRA's appalling track record on litter/fly-tipping.

"Britain is the most littered country in Western Europe and she seems incapable of seeing any other point of view, except the failed one that resides in her department.

"I think the people of Taunton have a right to expect much more resolute and can-do leadership from their MP and, indeed, so do the people of Britain."