Clause 24 - Co-operation duties of public authorities and the OEP

Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 5th November 2020.

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Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 2:00 pm, 5th November 2020

I beg to move amendment 190, in clause 24, page 14, line 29, at end insert—

“(g) a Scottish local authority,

(h) a Scottish housing association, or

(i) a Scottish environmental regulator.”

This amendment seeks to ensure clear reporting lines in Scotland and to ensure that the OEP’s remit does not clash with that of the Scottish regulator.

This amendment—I touched on this on Tuesday—continues the intent of amendment 188. Its aim is to ensure that Scottish public bodies do not duplicate their chain of authority, that they report to the correct bodies and that the devolved settlement around environmental protection is protected. It would basically ensure that the devolved nature of the Administration in Scotland was respected, that the reporting lines for those duties were clear and that the remit of the Office for Environmental Protection did not clash with that of the Scottish regulator.

I hope the Minister will see that muddying the waters of authority in the present way is rather unhelpful, and I hope he and his colleagues will see fit to support what would be a very reasonable addition to the Bill.

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Assistant Whip

I thank the hon. Member for her contribution. I would like to reassure her that the Bill respects all the devolution settlements, including the Scotland Act. Therefore, the duty to co-operate does not apply to Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Parliament or any person carrying out devolved functions, and the public authorities listed in the amendment are already excluded from the duty to co-operate to the extent that they will be carrying out devolved functions. That means that these public authorities would not be required to share any information with the OEP in relation to their devolved functions in Scotland. Therefore, it is not necessary to list them as excluded bodies for the purposes of clause 24.

I support the hon. Member’s intention to avoid overlaps with the functions of the equivalent Scottish governance body. That is why we have appropriately sought to limit the OEP’s remit to reserved matters, while avoiding any devolved matters that would appropriately be dealt with by that other body. I therefore ask the hon. Member to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am just trying to establish this from the Minister: all these bodies are included in the reference to the Scottish Government—to “the Scottish Ministers”. I think that that is what the Minister is saying. If that is indeed the case, although I stick to my point that all matters of the environment should be under the aegis of the Scottish Government, I am content to withdraw my amendment at this point, but I might revisit it on Report and Third Reading. We will, of course, be speaking to other amendments relating to the same matter later on. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 24 ordered to stand part of the Bill.