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The Climate Emergency

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 2:47 pm on 17th October 2019.

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Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Draft Domestic Abuse Bill (Joint) Committee 2:47 pm, 17th October 2019

I welcome this Queen’s Speech, but before I talk about the environmental measures in it, I want to show my support for a couple of other measures, particularly the serious violence Bill. Serious violence is a concern in all our communities, so the Government’s action is really important. I also look forward to supporting the Domestic Abuse Bill. The regulation of internet companies is long overdue and I am proud that a Conservative Government are pressing ahead with that. I also welcome the good work plan, which is looking at new ways of modernising the workplace. I am sure that Ministers will be look carefully at shared parental leave, flexible working and outlawing maternity discrimination so that more and more of the 2 million women in this country who are economically inactive can get back into the workplace and be productive members of our economy.

The Environment Bill represents a real step change in what is available in this country for protecting our environment. All Members of Parliament are trying to ensure that we have the right balance in our constituencies between protecting our environment and fulfilling our ambitions to create strong, vibrant and successful communities. I think that the measures in the Bill will help us go further in achieving that.

In particular, I want to bring to the fore measures intended to improve air and water quality and to help to restore habitats. In Basingstoke, we are already working on such measures, so we welcome further support. My local authority is already campaigning to clear the air at a very local level by outlawing idling engines, and our local county council is working with schoolchildren through the “My Journey Hampshire” programme to ensure that they are aware of what we can all do to improve air quality.

On water quality, I would like Ministers to consider what we have achieved in Basingstoke to clean up our River Loddon. By working with local water companies to reduce phosphate levels in the river, we have achieved a step change in phosphate concentrations. Our river is now on the boundary between moderate and good in relation to the water framework directive, and all that was achieved by working together in the community with our water companies.

Restoring habitats is also very important in my borough, which is 95% rural—my constituency is predominantly urban. We can achieve those restorations only as a result of the incredible work of the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and the local catchment partnerships. We need to ensure that those organisations continue to get the support they need for the work they do. I am proud to have worked with the wildlife trust recently to undertake “pollinator promise” programmes with my local schools and communities, because that sort of thing can really raise awareness. I urge Ministers to consider what more can be done to support bus companies in areas such as Basingstoke to clean up their buses, to improve water quality through new technology and to restore habitats.

The Chineham Brownies asked me to mention that they applaud the Government’s plastics strategy and work to ensure that we reduce the use of plastics through a plastic deposit scheme. I urge Ministers to follow that programme through. My local authority has been named by Friends of the Earth as the fifth best local authority in England for tackling climate change. I am proud of that, but there is more to do.