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Environment Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:36 pm on 28th October 2019.

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Photo of Sue Hayman Sue Hayman Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 7:36 pm, 28th October 2019

I really think that I need to make some progress.

Let me now say something about the independence of the proposed Office for Environmental Protection. As my hon. Friend Mary Creagh has said, the only reason the Government have made any movement on waste, landfill and air quality is the threat of EU fines, so it is disappointing that the OEP will have no powers to issue such fines. Will the Secretary of State agree to consider enabling it to do so, in order to give it real teeth? I welcome the change enabling it to conduct investigations on its own initiative, but we should like it to be empowered to conduct broader inquiries into systemic issues, to make recommendations, and to issue guidance.

Greener UK has said:

“The bill includes several measures which could seriously undermine the water environment”.

Another hon. Member who has now left the Chamber mentioned abstraction. The proposed new powers for the Environment Agency to revoke abstraction licences would not come into play until 1 January 2028, although England’s water supplies are already under severe pressure. There are also no water efficiency commitments, although British water consumption is the highest in Europe. Can the Secretary of State explain how that omission can be in line with the Government’s pledge in their 25-year environment plan to reduce water use and halve water leakages by 2050?

I am pleased to see that the Bill includes a commitment to nature recovery networks, but it passes more powers and duties to local councils without attaching adequate funding.