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Examination of Witnesses

Part of Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:47 pm on 12th March 2020.

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Lloyd Austin:

On your first point, like Alison I need to think about it a bit more, but I see that there is some degree of logic in one public body not being able to complain about another. Public bodies should have existing mechanisms to raise concerns with central Government.

From the point of view of NGOs and our members, ordinary citizens, the really important thing to make sure exists—this applies to the OEP and the Scottish or Welsh bodies—is a mechanism that enables ordinary citizens to raise concerns with the OEP. That is in there to some degree. There are ways in which that could be strengthened, but it is vital that that exists in the other bodies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, with, as I said earlier, an ability for the OEP and the Scottish and Welsh bodies to pass one citizen’s complaint to another if that is necessary. If the citizen has inadvertently complained to the wrong body, it should be able to pass it on, and in some cases bodies maybe should be able to work together in a joint investigation. Some issues that citizens might be concerned about may be caused by both a reserved and a devolved matter, or may be caused by, as we discussed earlier, the Scottish and UK Governments not working together very well. The two bodies working together to encourage better co-operation might be one form of remedy that they would have available to them. We represent ordinary members of the public who are members of our organisation, and it is those citizens’ right to complain. Most public bodies can normally find a citizen if they want to.