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Examination of Witnesses

Part of Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:17 pm on 12th March 2020.

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Ian Hepburn:

You have alluded to the fact that we have not done desperately well in terms of achieving good ecological status for water bodies. In England, 61% of the reasons why water bodies are failing are down to agriculture, rural land management and the water industry. I believe that the Bill does a lot to address the water industry aspects; it does not seem to do very much on the agriculture and rural land use aspects of the pollution. Of the 37% of reasons for failure that are attributed to agriculture and rural land management, 85% are down to, effectively, diffuse pollution from farm land and rural land use. It is a big issue, and has been for a long time. We have not got around to dealing with it. We need join-up between the Environment Bill and the Agriculture Bill to ensure that we deal with that sector.

We have been talking about clause 81 and the need to have it framed in a way that does not allow regression. There must be a temptation somewhere down the line—not necessarily in this Parliament, but in future—to lower the bar because of the levels of failure. We need to resist that, and ensure that under the framework, that is unlikely to happen.