Clause 35 - Environmental review

Part of Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 5th November 2020.

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Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 3:45 pm, 5th November 2020

Amendments 119 and 120 are connected. They seek to provide in the Bill a definition of the purpose of an environmental review. We think that will strengthen environmental reviews as set out in the Bill. Amendment 119 sets out that their purpose is to

“promote the integrity of environmental law and the achievement of environmental improvement in accordance with the law.”

That is a fairly clear definition. It would allow a tribunal—in this case, the High Court—to review any findings of fact on which the decision in question is based, and indeed whether environmental improvement, as defined in the first part of the amendment, has actually been achieved. This would give powerful additional clarity about the environmental review, and we offer the amendment to the Government as a good addition to the Bill.

If the definition in amendment 119 is put in place, amendment 120 would enable the upper tribunal to treat notices issued by the OEP as authoritative in respect of any relevant issues. The link between the definition of environmental law, what the tribunal may do so far as facts are concerned and how those notices should be treated by the OEP would be a substantial addition to the Bill, ensuring that environmental reviews are as strong as they can be. I anticipate that the Minister might not think that such a great idea, but I offer it, for what it is worth, and hope that even if the Minister does not decide on this occasion that it should go straight into the Bill, he may go away and reflect on it and consider whether, during the passage of the Bill, something like this may be an appropriate strengthening of it, making it more robust as it makes its way out into the world following our deliberations.