On Wednesday 20th October the House of Commons considered House of Lords amendments to the Environment Bill.
The Environment Bill contains many measures affecting the environment, including environmental targets, water quality and management, plastic pollution and trees. It introduces a new Office for Environmental Protection and a requirement for Government to set a target to halt the decline of nature in England by 2030.
I believe the Environment Bill should be much bolder and more urgent to achieve the highest environmental standards we need in this climate and ecological emergency. Although it contains some good elements, I do not think it rises to the challenge of the crisis we are facing. I am concerned the Government has not included sufficient legally binding targets and environmental protections.
However, we do need the measures in the Bill to be implemented soon as this legislation has been much delayed.
I was pleased that, following Opposition concerns raised in the Lords, the Government acted to extend charges on single-use plastics to include other materials to help address the throwaway economy and culture we have seen in this country.
I voted for the retention of all amendments on which the Government had been defeated in the House of Lords. Disappointingly, the Government opposed all these amendments, and they were removed from the Bill.
These included: the implementation of air quality targets, making interim environmental targets legally binding, the application of environmental principles across all Government departments, the ensured independence of the Office for Environmental Protection, the requirement of long-term assessments of pesticides on bees and pollinators, duties on water companies to prevent sewage discharges into waterways, protections for the Habitats Regulations, and a review of the efficacy of deforestation provisions.
I also supported enhanced protections for ancient woodlands, but no vote was called on this and unfortunately the amendment was removed from the Bill. The Government stated it will review the wording of the National Planning Policy Framework on this issue and consult on any changes.
The Bill passed Commons Consideration of Lords Amendments and will now progress to the House of Lords for its consideration of Commons Amendments.
I hope this Bill will be brought back quickly so it can finish its parliamentary process before COP26 in November.