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Environment Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:52 pm on 28th October 2019.

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Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Labour, Newport West 8:52 pm, 28th October 2019

It is good to be able to participate in this crucial debate tonight.

We need everyone in this House to be working hard to ensure that we are the generation that stopped the rot and left this country in a better state than when we started. We must put in place strong policies and ambitious but achievable targets, not just for ourselves but for our children and their children, and we must act now—we cannot delay as that will spell disaster for our planet. I recognise that this Bill includes what would seem at first glance to be relatively comprehensive legal targets, but it can and should go further. I will be working with colleagues to ensure that the Bill is amended and, importantly, strengthened to ensure that the United Kingdom does not fall behind European Union standards.

I am concerned that the Bill does not set itself a target for air quality and only requires the Secretary of State to set a 15-year target for particulates based on expert advice and subject to economic analysis. The Local Government Association, speaking for local authorities across the United Kingdom, is calling for more powers to be given to councils to tackle air pollution, and I hope that the Government will think about going further. That is important because poor air quality contributes to the early deaths of up to 40,000 people in the UK each year. This is not just a devastating and avoidable loss of life; it is costing the economy too. Research from the British Heart Foundation found that diseases attributable to air pollution in the UK result in over £20 billion-worth of economic costs.

I would like to pay particular tribute to all the children and young people across the United Kingdom who are speaking out and standing up for action to protect our environment and their future. I have had a number of letters from schoolchildren in Newport West. I am very grateful to each and every one who has written to me asking me to ensure that their voices are heard and their views are shared. It was also good to meet local members of Extinction Rebellion, to talk about what more we can do to mitigate climate change at a constituency level.

The UK is set to miss its target of achieving a 50% recycling rate by a country mile, which is evidence that this Government have failed to provide the rapid response required to tackle the environment and climate change emergency. We have had enough of the hot air; now it is time to deliver. In Wales, we are currently working towards a 70% recycling target of household waste by 2025, and we are well on track to achieving that. It is an ambitious target, but if we all work together, we can achieve it. Wales is leading the way, and it would be good to see England following.