Retaining Enhanced Protection

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 17th January 2018.

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Photo of Mary Creagh Mary Creagh Chair, Environmental Audit Committee 3:45 pm, 17th January 2018

New clause 12, which stands in my name and those of a number of other Members, seeks to guarantee our management of environmental protection after exit day. The environment has been in the news quite a lot recently. The members of the Cabinet all had reusable coffee cups following their meeting yesterday, although I think we shall need a little bit more from the Environment Agency than bamboo cups if we are to protect our environment after Brexit. I was delighted to receive your letter today, Mr Speaker, saying that the House of Commons Commission and the Administration Committee will be looking into how Parliament can reduce its plastic usage. Last Thursday the Government published their 25 Year Environment Plan. They were very clear about what they wanted to achieve, but there was absolute silence on how that was to be done.

A third of the acquis communautaire which applies in the UK is related to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—it has brought us huge environmental improvements—and 80% of our environmental protections originated in the EU. A third of those protections cannot simply be cut and pasted. The aim of new clause 12 is to prevent us from ending up with “zombie legislation”, no longer updated or enforced, and vulnerable to being quietly dropped at the stroke of a Minister’s pen. The Environmental Audit Committee, which I chair, called for a new environmental protection Act more than a year ago, and the new clause does the same today: it calls for legislation setting up a strong environmental protection agency to monitor and enforce standards, replacing the European Commission. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told my Committee in November that such a body would be needed. We await his proposals, but this must be done quickly.