The Environment Bill, announced by the Prime Minister in July 2018, will be a landmark piece of legislation in the history of environmental policy. It is essential for generations to come that the Government gets it right.
The draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill, published in December 2018, will form part of the wider Environment Bill, which is yet to be published. The draft Bill sets out how the Government plans to maintain environmental standards as we leave the European Union. Given the importance of the draft Bill in relation to the future direction of UK environmental policy, we have welcomed the opportunity to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny on the draft clauses.
The published draft clauses seek to ensure that environmental principles continue to inform policy decisions as we leave the EU, and to establish a new environmental watchdog body–the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) - to deliver functions relating to environmental governance currently undertaken by European institutions. As environmental policy is a devolved matter, the draft Bill mainly applies to England only, applying to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland only in respect to environmental matters that are not devolved.
The overwhelming narrative from the evidence to our inquiry is that the draft Bill’s provisions for principles and governance are not equivalent to the current environmental protections provided by membership of the EU. In some areas they mark a significant regression on current standards. Although the Government has made a real attempt to establish a robust framework for our future environmental governance, it still has some way to go to match its ambition “to ensure the environment is even better protected in future”.
For the Government to meet its own ambitions for the environment, we consider that the draft Bill needs significant revision. Before the Bill is introduced in Parliament, we have recommended that, amongst other recommendations, the Government will need to revise the draft clauses to:
Published: 30 April 2019