by Countryside Alliance

A committee of MPs has warned of “significant regression” on environmental standards under the Government’s proposals for environmental principles and governance outside the EU.

The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s Report on the Government’s draft Environment Bill has been published today (30 April) following an inquiry into the draft Bill, to which the Countryside Alliance submitted evidence.

The Report reflects concerns raised by the Countryside Alliance that the provisions set out in the draft Bill are not equivalent to the current environmental protections provided by membership of the EU. The Committee recommends considerable revision of the draft Bill, if it is to ensure that the level of environmental protection is not weakened when we leave the European Union.

The Report notes the need for the proposed Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) to be properly independent both in its membership and funding; and to have stronger enforcement powers. The Committee also accepted our view, which is widely shared, that the current judicial review process is not sufficient.

The Committee also recommends that the OEP become a UK wide body, rather than England only as currently proposed, to avoid gaps in the implementation of environmental policy across the UK. 

Countryside Alliance Head of Politics, James Legge, commented: “The Government says it wants a high level of protection for the environment; to be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it; and that the OEP should be a “world leading” watchdog.  If those are their ambitions, then the Government needs to amend the Bill accordingly.

“The Government also needs to ensure that any additional clauses are subject to full and public scrutiny before the final Bill is published. This legislation is too important to be rushed and the consequences of getting it wrong would have serious consequences for the future of both the environment and rural communities.”

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