The Environment Bill reached its Report stage in the Commons on Tuesday 26th January 2021. This was a milestone as the Bill was initially introduced to Parliament in the Spring of 2019. It has gone missing several times and has taken three attempts to get it to the current stage of preparation for legislation and it is still a long way from being ready to be put into law.
This all comes after the Tory Government promised that they would introduce a ground-breaking, once in a generation Bill which would show the UK as the world leader in environmental protection. These promises are a long way from the reality.
On the 26th January, we debated a Bill that is considerably weaker than when it was first drafted in early 2019. We have also left the EU and there are no clear safeguards in this Bill to prevent the UK from becoming the dirty man of Europe in terms of lower standards on the natural environment or on waste and chemical regulation.
As the Shadow Minister within the DEFRA team, I have a portfolio covering the natural environment, air quality, waste, recycling and chemicals so I have a great interest in making sure we have the highest standards possible enshrined in law as quickly as possible. The Labour Party submitted a number of important amendments to strengthen it in key areas such as air quality, chemical regulation and the protection of bees and other pollinators against the use of neonicotinoids. Sadly, the Government used its majority to vote down each one of them.
The next stage of the Bill – day two has been delayed until May 2021 which is really disappointing as we need strong laws to protect our natural environment and ensure that we minimise the waste we produce. Day two will cover important areas such as biodiversity, tree planting and fracking.
I, along with the other members of the shadow DEFRA team will do all we can to continue to press for improvements and to hold the Government to account for the promises they have made to protect our environment. This protection is not just for us but for future generations and it is vital that we get it right.