To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of UK environmental protections; and what assessment he has made of the areas in which protections need to be (a) more rigorous, (b) equally rigorous and (c) less rigorous than EU standards.
13 January 2021
The Government is committed to leaving the environment in a better state than we found it and has been clear that we will realise the benefits of leaving the EU, including implementing new ways of delivering better levels of environmental protection. The Government continuously looks for opportunities to improve the effectiveness of environmental protections and has already brought forward a number of measures to drive forward standards and to help assess the adequacy of environmental legislation in future.
For example, the Environment Bill sets a new legal foundation for Government action to improve the environment and is part of the wider Government response to the clear and scientific case for a step-change in environmental protection and recovery. As part of the provisions in the Bill, the Government must have an Environmental Improvement Plan which sets out the steps it intends to take to improve the environment and review it at least every five years. The 25 Year Environment Plan will be adopted as the first statutory Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP) in the Environment Bill.
The Bill also establishes a new, independent statutory body - the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) - which will have a statutory duty to monitor and report on the Government's progress in improving the natural environment in accordance with the EIP. The OEP’s annual report may provide recommendations on how to improve progress towards meeting targets or environmental improvement, to which Government must respond.
In many cases, we will be going further than the EU. For example, the approach taken in the Environment Bill towards environmental principles goes further than the EU by ensuring that Ministers across Government are obliged to consider the principles in all policy development where it impacts the environment. Through the Bill’s targets framework, we are seeking to develop a comprehensive suite of targets across the entire natural environment which is novel and not something developed at an EU level. The OEP’s enforcement powers are different from those of the European Commission, as the OEP will be able to liaise directly with the public body in question to investigate and resolve alleged serious breaches of environmental law in a more targeted and timely manner.