Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 22nd January 2018.

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Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 5:00 pm, 22nd January 2018

My Lords, I am most grateful for the general endorsement of these very important regulations to ensure that we and future generations have better air quality in this country. On that basis, I take great encouragement from our unity of purpose.

The noble Lord, Lord Jones, mentioned Wales. I will need to write to him with the details on the personnel there, but in England the regulator will be the Environment Agency and in Wales it will be Natural Resources Wales. However, we have worked very closely on the development of the regulations. They have been worked on in conjunction with the Welsh Government and NRW so that this is a composite statutory instrument—indeed, the regulation will be debated in the Welsh Assembly tomorrow. It is an example of how collaboration between England and Wales is very strong in areas such as this. Scotland is already working on its measures, as is Northern Ireland. So as a United Kingdom we will be working on including these measures in legislation.

More than 23,000 new and existing plants will come within scope of these regulations by 2030. We are strongly of the view that positive environmental outcomes will come through regulation. As the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, said, we will tackle the greater polluters first so that we gain the biggest dividend and the public health benefit is profound. I agree with your Lordships that there is more to do. These measures are in the context of the £3.5 billion of investment in air quality, investment in cleaner transport and the new clean air strategy, which we will bring forward this year. I say in direct reply to the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, that the clean air strategy, the 25-year environment plan, the regulations which come in through the EU directive and our own domestic regulations are all designed to be co-ordinated to improve air quality and the environment, and they should be seen in that context.

In response to a very important point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, we clearly want to advance air quality. However, we also need to ensure, in emergencies—I am well aware of what happened on the Somerset levels—the use of pumps across the country where difficulties are presented by flooding, as we saw with the use of emergency pumps over the weekend in north Devon, for instance. We do not intend that onsite emergency pumps are in the scope of these regulations. In fact, mobile generators are also not in scope, unless they are connected to an electricity transmission system or are performing a function that could be performed by a generator that is not mobile. In other words, I hope that these regulations are about common sense prevailing. In emergencies, of course we want to ensure that generators can be used. The overriding task of us all is to be using advances in cleaner technology but not, of course, stopping the use of current pumps for emergency purposes: I want to record that.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, referred to flooding. I should perhaps put this into context. Enforcement undertakings are currently unavailable for flood risk activities. In order to ensure consistency across environmental permitting schemes, we are proposing to revoke Paragraph 1(2) of Schedule 26 of the EPRs so that enforcement undertakings will become available for offences relating to flood risk activities in England only. This was an opportunity to use that but I emphasise what the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, said about flooding and the use of emergency pumps: this was not the intention; it was making use of an opportunity.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, mentioned the environment enforcement body in his closing remarks. We will be issuing a consultation later this year on the scope of an environmental enforcement body which, of course, the Secretary of State has already announced. There is a governance gap that we need to address and that will be the subject of consultation. We are also consulting on environmental status principles. It is very important to register that.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, also mentioned the monitoring of emissions, which is very important. There are some interesting details on the considerable emissions reductions there have been since 1970—and, indeed, since 2010—but I entirely recognise that we need to do more. Air quality data is already published in UK-AIR. the regulations provide that the regulator can consult the public if there is concern regarding local air quality. On the strategy, I mentioned the reduction in the elements of air pollution that the regulations will include; that too is very important. I will write to noble Lords on any further detailed points that need addressing.

These are important regulations that will set us well on track not only through the EU directive but through our domestic arrangements. They are a force for good for the environment, and undoubtedly for the health of everyone in this country. I beg to move.

Motion agreed.