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Environment Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:26 pm on 28th October 2019.

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Photo of Bim Afolami Bim Afolami Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden 9:26 pm, 28th October 2019

I rise—and I think that virtually all Members on both sides of the House have risen—to support the principles of the Bill. It is a groundbreaking Bill which will enable us to make long-term environmental improvements between 2025 and 2030, generational improvements that will make our country better, cleaner and safer for all of us for many years to come.

As I read the Bill, I noted ways in which it would improve the lives of my constituents, and I thought that the Minister would be interested to hear about them. The first involves air quality. At last there will be a legally binding target in relation to fine particulate matter, and in my constituency that will help us with the work that I am doing to establish clean air zones around schools. It will also help the fight against the expansion of Luton airport, which would mean much fine particulate matter in some of the most rural parts of my constituency.

The Bill will also improve waste resource management. As any Member who represents a rural constituency will know, fly-tipping is a scourge in rural areas. In my constituency, the work that will be done by local regulators and local authorities will strengthen the fight against it.

The Government clearly envisage a change in our economic model. A more circular economic model will enable us to keep our resources in use for much longer. Not throwing those resources away quickly will benefit all of us in the long run, and will also help our economy. Let me give a shout-out to some young guys in my constituency who have set up a business called @BambuuBrush, which makes 100% biodegradable toothbrushes containing no plastic. I urge every Member to buy them, because they are really good, and they are great for our environment. That is the sort of business that the Bill will strengthen.

The Bill will also improve water management. The chalk streams in my constituency, such as the River Mimram, will benefit from it, because the Government recognise the need to reform abstraction licensing so that we can help chalk streams to improve and thrive. I am working closely with the Ver Valley Society, and I hope to continue to do so over the coming weeks, months and years, with the Government’s help.

The last thing I will say is about nature. Biodiversity net gain as a concept is groundbreaking: it is important and it helps us deliver more housing more sustainably over the long term and helps our wildlife. I think all of us can recognise that, and a very good example again happens to be in my constituency. The Heartwood forest, built by the Woodland Trust just north of the village of Sandridge, is a very good example of the sort of new forest that could be envisaged and helped and strengthened by the measures in the Bill.

In her summing up I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will comment on the climate change conference I held recently in my constituency at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden. It was attended by well over 150 people, including experts and constituents, who came up with some of the very measures that we now find in this Bill.