Yesterday, the government published draft clauses which will form the backbone of the first environment bill for twenty years. This is, without doubt, a historic moment and a chance for the government to deliver its commitment to leave the environment in a better state for future generations. Read more
This blog was first published by Business Green.
On 6 November, the Environmental Audit Committee published the government’s response to its report into the 25 year environment plan and Defra’s consultation from earlier this year on environmental principles and governance. Read more
Something quite momentous happened on 18 July. The prime minister announced the first dedicated environment bill for over twenty years. Have no doubt that this is as major a policy announcement as they come, although it might easily have been missed as it was tucked away in an answer to a question on air quality when Theresa May was grilled by select committee chairs on their subject areas. Luckily this tweet sealed the deal and the announcement is now common knowledge and an important platform from which to build.
The EU (Withdrawal) Bill is rapidly approaching the end of its parliamentary journey, but it does so with a distinct whiff of unfinished business in relation to the environment.
This post was first published by Business Green.
It’s by now becoming a familiar refrain: we will consult on establishing a new, independent watchdog to hold the government to account. This commitment was first proposed by environment secretary Michael Gove in November, has been repeated many times since and was encapsulated in the Defra consultation document on environmental principles and governance published on 10 May.
When first announcing the government’s plans to legislate the UK’s withdrawal from the EU the prime minister assured the nation that the same rules and laws will apply on the day after exit as on the day before and that we will have a workable, certain, continuing system of law.
This really matters for the environment as 80 per cent of our environmental laws come from the EU and EU bodies have provided a vital degree of oversight and access to justice for UK citizens.
The EU (Withdrawal) Bill is being debated in the House of Lords and peers have been raising their concerns about the bill’s gaps and deficiencies. They have tabled over 100 amendments to the bill, several of which are being voted on and mostly passed.
The worry that Brexit might erode environmental safeguards has featured heavily throughout the bill’s parliamentary passage. The environment has vied successfully with constitutional law issues for airtime. And yesterday’s debate was no different. Environmental governance and principles were discussed alongside the rights of UK citizens and a proposal to give the European Court of Justice some say over UK laws after exit day.
At the end of January the EU (Withdrawal) Bill was the subject of a record-breaking debate in the House of Lords. One hundred and ninety peers spoke at the bill’s second reading, including several members of the expert Constitution Committee, which concluded that “the Bill risks fundamentally undermining legal certainty in this country”. There was also widespread concern about the ability of parliament to hold the government to account, the loss of the charter of fundamental rights and the implications for devolution. Read more
It’s so often the case that environmental issues are overlooked in parliament, squeezed in time and overshadowed by other priorities. But last night saw something rather special: three hours of uninterrupted parliamentary debate on the environment in which politicians from all parties were competing to speak and make and seek commitments about future environmental protection. Read more
As Greener UK has already highlighted, the EU (Withdrawal) Bill is crucial in ensuring the protection of the UK’s environment. So we will be on high alert when MPs begin their detailed scrutiny of the bill in a little over a week.
It has some major deficiencies, including the omission of the environmental principles which underpin many of our strongest protections. We are also concerned about what we’ve called the governance gap: if we break off relations with some or all EU institutions, we have to replace their functions in the UK to be able to operate to the highest of environmental standards. Read more