1.Following the decision to leave the European Union (EU) in 2016, our Committee and many other stakeholders raised concerns that there would be a lack of oversight for environmental policy in the UK, resulting from the loss of jurisdiction of the European Commission, the European Court of Justice and the European Environment Agency. The Government acknowledged these concerns and committed to consulting on the “setting up a new independent body to hold Government to account and a new set of environmental principles to underpin policy making”. The Government published this consultation on 10 May 2018, whilst at the same time provisions were included in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 for the Government to publish a draft Bill on environmental principles and governance by December 2018.
2.On 18 July 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May, announced that the Government would introduce a wide-ranging Environment Bill. The Bill is expected to be introduced during the second session in 2019 and will cover sectoral environmental regulation and standard setting in areas such as air quality, wildlife and habitats, better management of resources, water and waste.
3.The draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill, was published on 19 December 2018 to meet the requirements of the EU Withdrawal Act 2018. These clauses, which are the subject of this report, will be included as part of the wide-ranging Environment Bill when it is introduced later this year. In this report we refer to the draft clauses and the forthcoming Environment Bill interchangeably as “the Bill” or “the draft Bill”.
4.The Bill sets out how the Government will maintain environmental standards in the event of the UK leaving the EU. It also details how the Government will build on the vision of the 25 Year Environment Plan. This includes creating an independent oversight body, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), to:
a)scrutinise environmental law and the Government’s environmental improvement plan (EIP);
b)investigate complaints on environmental law; and
c)take enforcement action on environmental law.
5.Our Committee has previously reported on the Future of the Natural Environment after the EU referendum, which raised concerns that environmental legislation might be transposed into UK law without the accompanying enforcement, reporting, governance and policy development functions currently carried out at an EU level. As part of our inquiry into The Government’s 25 Year Plan for the Environment, we took evidence on the Government’s environmental governance and principles consultation. In July 2018, we published our recommendations for a new oversight body to replace the European governance architecture and on the application of the environmental principles. The Government’s response to our report was published on 6 November 2018.
6.On 20 December 2018, we launched a joint call for evidence on the draft Bill with the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee. We received 100 submissions of written evidence. Both Committees held separate hearings over the course of February and March 2019. The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee also held a roundtable on the enforcement powers in the Bill on 6 February. We took oral evidence from environmental organisations, leading academics in governance and law and practicing barristers. Finally, we heard from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Environment, Dr Thérèse Coffey MP. We are grateful to all those who responded to our inquiry. The evidence we received—even where it is not directly referenced in this report—will continue to inform our future inquiries.
1 Environmental Audit Committee. , Sixth Report of Session 2016–17, HC599
2 HM Government, , January 2018, p14 (henceforth 25 Year Plan)
3 Defra, Environmental Governance and Principles after the United Kingdom Leaves the European Union, May 2018
4 European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, , 26 June 2018
6 House of Commons Library. Environmental Principles and Governance: the draft Bill. Briefing paper no 8484, 30 Jan 2019, p3 and , 19 December 2018
8 European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018,
10 Draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill 2018, , 19 December 2018
11 Environmental Audit Committee. , Sixth Report of Session 2016–17, HC599
12 Defra, Environmental Governance and Principles after the United Kingdom Leaves the European Union, May 2018
13 House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, 24 July 2018, HC803
14 House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, Twelfth Special Report of Session 2017–19, 6 November 2018, HC1672
Published: 25 April 2019