Prorogation of Parliament — [Joan Ryan in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:17 pm on 9th September 2019.

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Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Labour/Co-operative, Leeds North West 5:17 pm, 9th September 2019

We only have a few hours before the House is prorogued. I am sure that colleagues of the Minister are busily preparing to ensure that we do not have to bring those Bills back in the Queen’s Speech, but one Bill we will without doubt need to be in it is an environment Bill. We were expecting an environment Bill to be introduced; we were expecting to be through First and Second Reading and in Committee—I wanted to be on the Committee, as did my hon. Friend Anna McMorrin, who is sitting next to me—but we have no environment Bill. I would like to know what regulations will exist, and how we will enforce them from 1 November, if the Prime Minister completes the task that he has set for himself.

In Leeds, we are due to have a clean-air zone, because our air quality is among the worst in this country. Three times the Government have been taken to court by ClientEarth and lost, on the basis of EU regulations forming part of UK law to enshrine, embed and widen air quality through a number of local authorities in the UK. The Government have failed to deliver to Leeds what it needs—a charging system, and equipment for such vehicles—so we in Leeds will be in breach of EU regulations on air quality for longer than we expected.

Who will provide the environmental protection that we need? I asked that question of Dr Coffey, now the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, but until a few hours ago the Minister of State in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. She said that in a no-deal Brexit scenario, the new agency would not be formed until the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021, and that people would have to take environmental action retrospectively. That means that we will have no environmental protection in this country from 31 October until that date. I have an issue with effluent discharge into the River Wharfe, and I hope for some enforcement action on it. Will I be disappointed? Will people have to swim in effluent for two more years because there is no regulation? I would like to know.

The issues are not small and minor; they are huge, and Parliament should be here, sitting to debate those Bills, scrutinising them in Committee, and getting them through so that on 31 October we are not in a situation in which the people of this country have a far worse quality of life.