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Environment Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:23 pm on 26th February 2020.

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Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee 2:23 pm, 26th February 2020

My hon. Friend makes a good point. We do not want to waste years in the courts; these things have to be done quickly. We need practical solutions for when the Government are in breach, just as we have with air pollution plans. I am still concerned that the environmental review outlined in the Bill is just a judicial review by another name. We have a great opportunity to build on our strong commitment to the environment. We all want to leave the environment in a better place than we found it. Will the Secretary of State look again at some of our Select Committee proposals, because the Bill can still be strengthened in many areas? One final point on the OEP is that the judicial review is not the most appropriate enforcement mechanism for environmental cases. We therefore need a more practical solution.

Finally, I ask the Government, as we have made a commitment to improve the environment, to look not only at the Environment Bill, but at the Agriculture Bill and the Fishing Bill, because they all fit together. As yet another round of flooding seems likely in the future, the Environment Bill will be important, as will be the Agriculture Bill. Fitting the two together with new land management projects will be a very good way of making sure that we can deliver a catchment-area basis for flooding. We can also improve our environment and work with the water companies on holding more water and on making sure that the reservoirs do not overflow. We can also look at the rewetting of peatland. All of those things can be done, but they must be linked with the Environment Bill.

Finally—I am sure that this is in the minds of Ministers and the Secretary of State—we must ensure that we join up the Environment Bill with the Agriculture and Fishing Bills, and also make sure that, as we drive towards a better environment, we do so across the whole of Government. This cannot just be done by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, because things such as delivering on air quality can only be achieved across Government.

I look forward to the Bill being read a Second time. It is taking us in the right direction, but let us also look at the independence of the OEP. We also need to make sure that tribunals deal not just with legal matters, but with environmental matters. With that, I very much welcome the Second Reading of this Bill.