Clause 36 - Judicial review: powers to apply to prevent serious damage and to intervene

Part of Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 5th November 2020.

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Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Assistant Whip 4:00 pm, 5th November 2020

We have created the OEP’s bespoke core enforcement mechanism of notices and environmental review to identify and resolve breaches of environmental law while only resorting to litigation in court as a last resort. Clause 36 ensures that the OEP can apply directly for judicial review, but that power has always been intended to supplement the OEP’s core enforcement mechanism. It is expected that judicial review should be used by the OEP in limited and exceptional circumstances where it is necessary to do so to prevent or mitigate serious damage to the natural environment or human health where the OEP cannot do so through its core enforcement mechanism.

Government amendments 217, 218 and 219 clarify the policy intention as to how and when the OEP should apply directly for a judicial review. Amendment 217 simply clarifies that the OEP should apply for judicial review only in limited circumstances, now referred to as the urgency condition. Amendments 218 and 219 go on to define when and how the urgency condition may be met.

The urgency condition is framed in terms of necessity. To meet the condition, it must be necessary for the OEP to proceed according to this route—rather than its normal enforcement procedures—to prevent or mitigate serious damage to the natural environment or human health. The clause is also restructured so that this condition is an objective, rather than subjective, test that must be passed in order for the OEP to bring such proceedings. This is intended to bring greater clarity to the test. Amendments 217 to 219 will therefore improve clause 36 by clarifying the process for the OEP to apply for judicial review as intended.