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Environment Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:11 pm on 28th October 2019.

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Photo of Mary Creagh Mary Creagh Chair, Environmental Audit Committee 8:11 pm, 28th October 2019

I will not give way, because I want to make some progress. Farmers face tariffs and checks on their EU exports and increased competition from countries with lower food, animal welfare and environmental standards. The previous withdrawal agreement negotiated by the previous Prime Minister contained a level playing field non-regression commitment, but the new European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, which was presented by the Prime Minister and then withdrawn in some sort of deal in order to get an early general election, contains no such comfort.

We are debating a Bill that may or may not progress into Committee and that my Environmental Audit Committee—I pay tribute to colleagues from across the House—spent many weeks and months examining and trying to make better. However, if there is no agreement between the UK and the EU about our future agreement by the end of the transition period in December 2020, there will be no legal requirement for us to maintain existing standards and protections. I am worried about the possibility of significant divergence, so I am concerned about what Brexit will do.

My Committee made several recommendations, particularly in the area of extended producer responsibility. We recommended a latte levy to reduce the 2.5 billion single-use coffee cups that are thrown away every year, but the Government said no. We wanted a 1p charge on every garment sold in the UK to tackle 300,000 tonnes of textile waste that goes to landfill or is incinerated every year, but the Government again said no. I am pleased that the Bill has adopted some of the recommendations of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and my Environmental Audit Committee, meaning that carbon budgets and targets are legally enforceable.

However, I am still concerned that the watchdog is toothless, the targets are too little, too late, and the environmental principles are not on the face of the Bill, and I look forward to quizzing the Secretary of State about the watchdog. This Government have more experience in shutting watchdogs down—they scrapped the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and the Sustainable Development Commission—than in setting them up, and I hope to quiz her further tomorrow.