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Environment Bill: New Independent Environmental Regulator

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An image of a countrysides with rolling green hills at sunset.

The Environment Bill will establish a new independent environmental watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP).  This strong and independent body is a key part of the government’s vision to lead the world in protecting our environment and building back greener from the COVID pandemic.

The BBC today raised questions over how the new watchdog will work to protect our environment.

The OEP  will have the power to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action against public authorities where necessary.

Numerous safeguards will be in place to protect the OEP’s independence. The Secretary of State must have regard to the need to protect the OEP’s independence. The Secretary of State will absolutely not be able to intervene in decision making about specific or individual enforcement cases, and has no power to direct the OEP.

While the Secretary of State can give guidance to the OEP on its enforcement policy, this guidance must be published and laid before parliament.  Furthermore, the OEP does not have to act strictly in accordance with the guidance where it has clear reasons not to do so.

The OEP’s budget will be ring-fenced for each spending review period, giving the OEP certainty over its finances. It will also have its own website.

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  1. Comment by Miles King posted on

    "the secretary of state must have regard to the need to protect the OEP's independence."

    Like the Biodiversity Duty:

    "public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity."

    The result being that it was ignored.

    The Secretary of State can confirm that they had regard for the need to protect the OEP's independence, before telling it what to do.

  2. Comment by William Hughes-Games posted on

    There is no way the UK can protect her marine environment if she allows foreign fishing boats into her EEZ. And she is in danger of throwing the fishing industry under the bus in a trade off for other benefits. The truth is that if properly managed, the EEZ could produce far more fish than it does at present. It would no longer by the poor relative to other food based industries. The present economic returns from the fishing industry should not be used as the deciding factor in negotiations with Europe but rather what could be if the fisheries resources were properly managed.