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For the sake of Back Benchers’ speeches later on, I will have to make some progress. Just as this nation acted successfully to curb the air pollution dangers of the past, we now need to address this major environmental harm that we face in the modern era.
Clauses 19 to 38 will establish the Office for Environmental Protection as a powerful new independent watchdog on the environment. It will provide expert independent advice to Government on environmental plans; scrutinise policy and progress; investigate if public authorities fail to live up to their commitments on the environment; and, where necessary, take enforcement action. The OEP will have a role in enforcing climate change law as well, complementing the functions of the much respected Committee on Climate Change. This addition to the Bill was one for which both the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and the Environmental Audit Committee called. As a non-departmental public body, the OEP will be independent of ministerial control. It will have a free-to-use complaints system for the public, and multi-year funding settlements will give it financial stability.
The second half of the Bill will empower environmental improvement across a range of sectors, encouraging businesses to innovate and invest in meeting the crucial environmental challenges that we face as nation, and creating additional powers for local government on waste, nature, air quality and water. I think everyone in the House would agree that we need greater efficiency in the way we treat resources and waste. Our constituents are fed up with litter and fly-tipping and appalled by plastic pollution. This legislation will help us to crack down on the blight of waste crime and fly-tipping that costs the taxpayer over £600 million every year. It contains a powerful new set of measures to tackle plastic waste.