Thank you for contacting me about the progress of the Environment Bill.
I remain fully committed to the Environment Bill as a key part of delivering the manifesto commitment to create one of the most ambitious environmental programmes of any country on Earth and I am pleased that legislative measures will be introduced to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age. Important work on implementing the Bill’s measures is continuing at pace, including meeting net-zero by 2050, establishing the Office for Environmental Protection, as well as wider long term targets on biodiversity, air quality, water, and resource and waste efficiency which will be established under the Bill.
I know that the Government will determine the specific areas in which targets will be set using the robust and transparent target-setting, monitoring and reporting process that the Bill legislates for, and will seek advice from independent experts to aid with this.
Regarding plastic pollution, which you mention, the Resources and Waste Strategy sets out Government plans to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste throughout the lifetime of the 25 Year Environment Plan. For the most problematic plastics, the Government will go faster, working towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being recyclable, reusable, or compostable by 2025. In 2019, consultations ran on a number of key policy measures set out in the strategy: reforming existing packaging waste regulations; exploring the introduction of a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and increasing consistency in the recycling system. I am pleased that the Environment Bill includes powers to enable Government to deliver these measures.
In addition, the new Office for Environmental Protection will have the power to take public bodies to an upper tribunal if there are breaches of the law. I am informed that the OEP is independent and fully transparent in order to effectively hold the Government to account on its targets. There have been assurances from Ministers that the OEP will be operationally independent from Government, including from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. This means that Ministers will not be able to set its programme of activity or influence its decision-making. I personally have reservations about putting quangos ‘above’ the elected government, but this paragraph appears to meet most of the demands of Friends of the Earth, as outlined in your email.
Please be assured that protecting pollinators remains an important component of our environmental legislation. The Government continues to support the restrictions on neonicotinoids, and emergency authorisations for pesticides are only granted in exceptional circumstances where diseases or pests cannot be controlled by any other reasonable means. For more information please see my recent response regarding noenicitinoids on the campaign emails section of my website here.
Your email also states that “The Bill has loopholes that would allow defence and spending decisions to be made without considering the environmental principles.” The Government has been clear that it is fundamental to the protection of our country that the exemptions for armed forces, defence and national security are maintained. A critical part of the role of Defence and Home Office Ministers is to make decisions about the use of UK forces to prevent harm, save lives, protect UK interests or deal with a threat. It would not be appropriate for Ministers to have to go through the process of considering the set of environmental principles before implementing any vital and urgent policies related to these decisions. Furthermore, the Ministry of Defence has its own environmental policies in place, as well as a commitment that its policies protect the environment, with a strong record on delivering on those commitments.
Outside the EU, Britain can develop global gold standard environmental policies. Having left the Common Agricultural Policy we can use public money for public goods, rewarding environmentally responsible land use, and leaving the Common Fisheries Policy means we are able to grant access and allocate quotas based on sustainability, allowing us to pursue the highest standards in marine conservation. Above all, I am pleased that the Government is taking a proactive stance on environmental issues and I will continue to support their approach.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me and I hope this email has provided some useful information and assurance.
With best wishes.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking