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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:30 pm on 23rd April 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 8:30 pm, 23rd April 2018

My Lords, I rise to support Amendment 27 and to fully support the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Brown of Cambridge, and the noble Lords, Lord Deben and Lord Inglewood. As noble Lords from all sides know, this amendment was strongly supported on the Liberal Democrat Benches in Committee and it should be key to the environmental principles of all in this House

Given the time, I do not wish to rehearse all the arguments deployed in Committee, but I emphasise strongly the importance of proposed new subsection (4). It is vital that an independent institution is set up before exit day to ensure total compliance with environmental law by all public bodies. If a public body is not responsible to, and monitored by such a body, how can the public expect that private bodies will uphold environmental law?

The public at large have now taken the state of the environment to their hearts. They wish to see our lands and oceans preserved in a fit state for both animal and human habitation. We in this House have a duty to ensure that we do our utmost to make this happen for them. The Secretary of State for Defra has given a commitment to setting up a monitoring body, but we have yet to see the detail. There is talk of an environmental Bill in the future. Given the current parliamentary timetable, this crucial Bill could be some way away.

We cannot afford to leave this matter to chance. We must ensure that at the point of exit in March next year, the public, politicians and all those who care about the environment will know that an independent body is in place with the sole purpose of monitoring compliance with environmental law, as it stands today, and is not watered down to suit the interests of others. The Secretary of State has made it clear that he wishes Britain’s environmental watchdog to be a world leader. We should help him to achieve this by passing this amendment and ensuring that there can be no wriggle room for those wishing to avoid the principle of the polluter pays. This issue is too important to be confined to party politics. Should a vote be called, I urge all Peers across the House, along with those of us on the Liberal Democrat Benches, to support the amendment. In the meantime, I wait to hear what the Minister has to say on this matter.