The Government has confirmed the Environment Bill will be carried over to the next parliamentary session.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in exceptional pressure on the Parliamentary timetable which has reduced the amount of Parliamentary time available for the scrutiny of legislation.
Carrying over the Bill to the next session – when it will complete Report Stage and head to the House of Lords for full scrutiny - does not hold back the government’s environmental ambition and we are continuing at pace with our plans linked to the Bill.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:
“We remain fully committed to the Environment Bill as a key part of delivering the Government’s manifesto commitment to create the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on Earth.
“Carrying over the Bill to the next session does not diminish our ambition for our environment in any way - with Report Stage recommencing early in the Second Session and Royal Assent expected in the Autumn.
“Key work on implementing the Bill’s measures will continue at pace, including establishing the Office for Environmental Protection, setting long-term legally-binding targets for environmental protection and creating a new Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers.”
Environment Bill progress:
Office for Environmental Protection
The Office for Environmental Protection is now expected to commence shortly after Royal Assent. The Interim Environmental Governance Secretariat is now in place until the OEP is established and we will be working on how to ensure the OEP starts operations as quickly as possible.
The Interim Environmental Governance Secretariat is able to receive and assess complaints submitted by members of the public about alleged failures of public authorities to comply with environmental law.
Dame Glenys Stacey, Chair-designate of the OEP, said:
“Whilst it is quite understandable, given the pandemic, carrying over our enabling legislation to the next session is extremely disappointing.
“We will do everything we can to make progress in the interim. There is important work to be done, and I will be pressing ahead so far as is possible, pending OEP’s formal enactment.”
Furthermore, the Secretary of State will be considering with Dame Glenys what more can be done, in the interim, so the OEP can start strongly following Royal Assent.
The Environment Bill requires that Statutory Instruments setting out environmental targets must be laid before parliament by 31 October 2022. We will continue to develop targets through a robust, evidence-led process to meet this deadline.
This process is set out in our policy paper, published in August 2020. It seeks independent expert advice, provides a role for stakeholders and the public, as well as scrutiny from Parliament.
We are already working with expert groups such as the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants and the Air Quality Expert Group to seek their input, advice, views and recommendations on key aspects of AQ target development.
Work to support the implementation of the Local Air Quality measures is ongoing and will not be impacted by the delay to the Bill.
WASTE AND RESOURCES
We remain committed to tackling the scourge of plastic pollution and delivering our three key waste reforms on a Deposit Return Scheme, Extended Producer Responsibility and consistent recycling collections.
The timeline for introduction will be set out in forthcoming consultations which will be published shortly
We have already introduced a restriction on the supply of plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers from the 1st October, and we are scoping out further items for which a ban would be a suitable and proportionate measure.
The government has committed to consult on introducing mandatory reporting of food waste and surplus by food businesses. The delay to the Environment Bill should not impact on implementation of this policy, the timeline for which will be set out in the forthcoming consultation.
We are planning to consult on the detail of the secondary legislation for biodiversity net gain. The timing of this is not going to be affected by the delay to the Bill.
The publication of the final version of the biodiversity metric in Spring this year is also not expected to be delayed.
We are currently piloting the preparation of Local Nature Recovery Strategies in five counties across England. The pilots are progressing well, and we are learning valuable lessons for how we will roll LNRSs out across the country following Royal Assent.
Ongoing work to support the implementation of Species Conservation and Protected Site Strategies will not be affected by the delay to the Environment Bill and will continue as planned.