1st Allocated Day

[Relevant documents: Eighteenth Report of the Environmental Audit Committee, Session 2017-19, Scrutiny of the Draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill, HC 1951; and Fourteenth Report of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Session 2017-19, Pre-legislative scrutiny of the Draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill, HC 1893.]

Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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After Caroline Lucas, there will be a four-minute time limit on Back-Bench contributions.

New Clause 1

Environmental Principles: Public Authorities

‘(1) A public authority, must, when exercising their functions (including the making of policy and legislation), act in accordance with the environmental principles currently in effect.

(2) The duty in subsection (1) does not apply to policy relating to Wales.

(3) In this section, “legislation” means—

(a) an Act of Parliament; and

(b) subordinate legislation.’—(Caroline Lucas.)

This new clause would require public authorities to act in accordance with environmental principles when exercising their functions.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green) [V]
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I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 5—State of nature target—

‘(1) It is the duty of the Secretary of State to set a target to halt and begin to reverse the decline in the state of nature in England as soon as reasonably practicable and no later than 2030.

(2) The target in subsection (1) shall be known as the state of nature target.

(3) The Secretary of State must ensure that the state of nature target is met.

(4) A draft statutory instrument containing regulations that make provision for how progress toward the state of nature target will be measured must be laid before Parliament at least one month before the fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

(5) Before laying before Parliament a draft of a statutory instrument under this section, the Secretary of State must obtain, publish and take into account the advice of relevant experts, including—

(a) The Environment Agency;

(b) Natural England;

(c) The Office for Environment Protection; and

(d) The Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

(6) In this section—

(a) the abundance and distribution of species;

(b) the risk of extinction; and

(c) the extent and condition of priority habitats.’

This new clause would place a duty on the Secretary of State to set and meet a target to begin to reverse the loss of biodiversity in England no later than 2030. This timetable would align with the new Convention on Biological Diversity goals that are due to be agreed in 2021.

New clause 9—Environmental objective and commitments—

‘(1) In interpreting and applying this Act, any party with duties, responsibilities, obligations or discretions under or relating to it must comply with—

(a) the environmental objective in subsection (2); and

(b) the commitments in subsection (3).

(2) The environmental objective is to achieve and maintain—

(a) a healthy, resilient and biodiverse natural environment;

(b) an environment that supports human health and well-being for everyone; and

(c) sustainable use of resources.

(3) The commitments are—

(a) all commitments given by Her Majesty’s Government in the United Nations Leaders’ Pledge for Nature of 28 September 2020, including, but not limited to, the urgent actions committed to be taken by it over the period of ten years from the date of that pledge;

(b) any enhanced commitments given by Her Majesty’s Government pursuant to that pledge, any other pledge, and any international agreement; and

(c) all relevant domestic legislation, including, but not limited to, the Climate Change Act 2008, as amended from time to time.

(4) Without prejudice to the generality of the requirement in subsection (1), that requirement applies to—

(a) the Secretary of State in setting, amending and ensuring compliance with the environmental targets; preparing, amending and implementing environmental improvement plans; and performing all their obligations and exercising all their discretions under this Act;

(b) the Office for Environmental Protection and the Upper Tribunal in performing their respective obligations and exercising any applicable discretions; and

(c) all other persons and bodies with obligations and discretions under, or in connection with, the subject matter of this Act.’

New clause 11—Environmental targets: plastic pollution—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must by regulations set targets (“the plastics reduction targets”) in respect of the reduction of plastic pollution and to reduce the volume of non-essential single-use plastic products sold.

(2) The plastics reduction targets may, but need not, be long-term.

(3) The duty in subsection (1) is in addition to (and does not discharge) the duty in section 1(2) to set a long-term target in relation to resource efficiency and waste reduction.

(4) Section 1(4) to (9) applies to the plastics reduction targets and to regulations under this section as it applies to targets set under section 1 and to regulations under that section.

(5) In this section—

(a) the term “plastics pollution” means the introduction of plastic materials or plastic-containing products into the environment, and

(b) the term “non-essential single-use plastic products” means products intended to be used once then disposed of where their use is not essential for medical, environmental, health and safety, national security or other essential purposes as defined by the Secretary of State.’

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to set targets to reduce plastic pollution and reduce the volume of non-essential single-use plastic products sold.

New clause 14—OEP function to consider housing targets—

‘(1) The OEP will have the power to consider appeals on housing targets set by public authorities in England.

(2) An individual affected by the targets in subsection (1) will have the right of appeal to the OEP.

(3) In determining an appeal under subsection (1) the OEP may either—

(a) reject; or

(b) reduce the housing target set by the public authority.

(4) In dealing with the appeal set out in subsection (1) the OEP must have regard to the impacts the housing targets will have on compliance with the UK’s environmental targets.’

New clause 15—Net zero carbon target as condition of planning permission—

‘(1) The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 is amended as set out in section (2).

(2) After section 70(2), insert—

“(2A) Any grants of planning permission for residential development in England must be subject to a condition to secure that a net zero-carbon target objective during construction and ongoing occupation of the building is achieved.”’

New clause 17—Strategy for new economic goals to deliver environmental protection and societal wellbeing—

‘(1) Her Majesty’s Government must prepare a strategy for the adoption of new economic goals to deliver environmental protection and societal wellbeing.

(2) “Environmental protection” in subsection (1) means the protection of humans and the natural environment from the impacts of human activity as defined in Clause 44.

(3) The new economic goals must address—

(a) the environmental targets in this Act,

(b) the Climate Change Act 2008,

(c) the UK’s commitments under international environmental agreements, laws and treaties,

(d) the wellbeing of future generations,

(e) the overseas environmental impacts of UK consumption and economic activity, and

(f) the contribution of the UK’s consumption and production to the state of the global environment, in relation to nine planetary boundaries—

(i) Stratospheric ozone depletion,

(ii) Loss of biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and extinctions),

(iii) Chemical pollution and the release of novel entities,

(iv) Climate change,

(v) Ocean acidification,

(vi) Freshwater consumption and the global hydrological cycle,

(vii) Land system change,

(viii) Nitrogen and phosphorus flows to the biosphere and oceans, and

(ix) Atmospheric aerosol loading.

(4) The strategy must—

(a) set out how the new economic goals will replace growth in gross domestic product as the principal measure of national economic progress,

(b) set out a vision for how the economy can be designed to serve the wellbeing of humans and protect the natural environment,

(c) include a set of indicators for each new economic goal, and

(d) set out plans for the application of new economic goals and indicators to central and local government decision-making processes including but not limited to Central Government Guidance on Appraisal and Evaluation produced by HM Treasury (The Green Book).

(5) In drawing up the strategy, Her Majesty’s Government must obtain, publish and take into account the advice of—

(a) experts in the field of ecological economics,

(b) a nationally representative citizens assembly,

(c) trades unions,

(d) businesses,

(e) statutory agencies,

(f) representatives of local and regional government, and

(g) any persons the Secretary of State considers to be independent and to have relevant expertise.

(6) The strategy must be laid before Parliament within 12 months of this Act receiving Royal Assent.

(7) The Government must lay before Parliament an annual report on progress towards meeting the new economic goals and their efficacy in delivering environmental protection and societal wellbeing.

(8) A Minister of the Crown must, not later than one month after the report has been laid before Parliament, move a Motion in the House of Commons in relation to that report.’

This new clause requires the Government to prepare a strategy for the adoption of new economic goals that are designed to deliver environmental protection and societal wellbeing and to report annually on these goals.

Amendment 21, in clause 1, page 2, line 4, at end insert—

‘(e) Public access to and enjoyment of the natural environment.’

This amendment is designed to require the Government to set legally-binding, long-term targets to increase public access to, and enjoyment of the natural environment.

Amendment 40, page 2, line 20, at end insert—

‘(10) In setting a target, the Secretary of State must take into account any targets set by Senedd Cymru.

(11) If the UK Government seeks to spend funds from the Shared Prosperity Fund on infrastructure in Wales, an impact assessment must be carried out and published on the effect of the infrastructure project on the target set by Senedd Cymru.

(12) If the impact assessment under subsection (11) finds that the infrastructure project would have a negative effect on the achievement of the target set by Senedd Cymru, the Secretary of State must seek and receive the consent of Senedd Cymru to that infrastructure spending.’

This amendment would ensure that the consent of Senedd Cyrmu would be required before the UK Government could use the financial assistance powers in the UK Internal Market Bill to spend via the Shared Prosperity Fund on infrastructure projects in Wales which would undermine environmental targets set by Senedd Cymru.

Amendment 2, in clause 2, page 2, line 24, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

‘(2) The PM2.5 air quality target must—

(a) be less than or equal to air quality guidelines established by the World Health Organization in 2005; and

(b) have an attainment deadline on or before 1 January 2030.’

This amendment is intended to set parameters on the face of the Bill to ensure that the PM2.5 target will be at least as strict as the 2005 WHO guidelines, with an attainment deadline of 2030 at the latest.

Amendment 25, page 2, line 24, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

‘(2) The PM2.5 air quality target must—

(a) be less than or equal to 10µg/m3;

(b) follow World Health Organisation guidelines; and

(c) have an attainment deadline on or before 1 January 2030.’

This amendment is intended to set parameters on the face of the Bill to ensure that the PM2.5 target will be at least as strict as the 2005 WHO guidelines, with an attainment deadline of 2030 at the latest.

Amendment 5, in clause 4, page 3, line 31, at end insert

‘, and

(c) interim targets are met.’

This amendment places a duty on the Secretary of State to meet the interim targets they set.

Government amendment 6.

Amendment 28, in clause 7, page 5, line 12, leave out “may” and insert “must”

This amendment would require the Government to include steps to improve people’s enjoyment of the natural environment in its Environmental Plan.

Amendment 39, page 5, line 21, at end insert—

‘(7A) If an exemption is granted under Article 53 of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council, concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market, which is likely to affect species covered by an environmental improvement plan—

(a) a report must be laid before Parliament within one month of the exemption decision on the likely effects of the exemption on populations of—

(i) bees,

(ii) other pollinators, and

(iii) other species,

(b) the scientific advice given to ministers relating to the exemption must be published as an addendum to the report, and

(c) a Minister of the Crown must, not later than one month after the report is laid before Parliament under paragraph (8), move a Motion in the House of Commons in relation to the report.

(7B) The requirement in subsection (7A) shall apply retrospectively to exemptions granted within the last 12 months of the coming into force of this Act.’

This amendment places requirements on Ministers to allow parliamentary scrutiny of exemptions granted to allow plant protection products banned under retained EU law (such as neonicotinoid pesticides), where they are likely to impact bees and other species covered by an environmental improvement plan.

Amendment 4, in clause 16, page 10, line 15, at end insert—

‘(3A) When applying the precautionary principle, the policy statement must comply with the provisions of the regulator’s code and must include—

(a) a procedure for identifying and recording risk; and

(b) a procedure for identifying and recording the social, economic and cultural impacts of action and inaction.

(3B) The policy statement in subsection (3A) must also include instructions for taking into account all activities with an environmental impact on any area of land under consideration and a procedure for ensuring that any action taken—

(a) is proportionate to the risk posed by each activity on the land being considered; and

(b) balances short term impacts against the achievement of the land’s conservation objectives.

(3C) The precautionary principle should only apply in response to risks that are—

(a) more than hypothetical in nature; and

(b) serious and irreversible.’

This amendment sets out the definition of the precautionary principle when it is used in accordance with the provisions of this Bill.

Amendment 1, in clause 18, page 11, line 20, leave out from “benefit” to end of clause and insert—

‘(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to policy so far as relating to Wales.’

This amendment removes the proportionality limitation and the exceptions for armed forces, defence policy, tax, spending and resources from the requirement to have due regard to the policy statement on environmental principles.

Amendment 43, page 11, line 24, leave out paragraphs (b) and (c).

This amendment removes the exceptions for armed forces, defence and national security policy from the requirement to have due regard to the policy statement on environmental principles. It also removes the exceptions for tax, spending and allocation of resources.

Amendment 23, page 14, line 29, leave out Clause 24.

Government amendment 31.

Amendment 44, in clause 45, page 27, line 15, leave out paragraphs (b) and (c).

This amendment removes the exceptions for armed forces, defence and national security policy and the exceptions for tax, spending and allocation of resources from the definition of environmental law.

Government amendments 9 to 20.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas
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I am pleased to move new clause 1. This Bill could not be more important. It is 25 years since the last dedicated Environment Act was passed. During that time, the speed and scale of environmental destruction has increased dramatically. The UK is now one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, and Ministers simply are not rising to that challenge. According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Government are failing to meet fully 17 out of 20 UN biodiversity targets.

Despite the Government’s aim to be

“the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it”,

this Bill has languished in Parliament for more than 200 days before Committee resumed. As a consequence, there is now a governance gap, with only interim measures in place where a fully-fledged Office for Environmental Protection should have been. Worse, we now hear that the Bill is to be delayed by at least six months, because Ministers have apparently run out of time to pass it in Parliament.

Of course we understand the pressures that covid has put on the parliamentary timetable, but the Government have had more than four years since the referendum, two years since the draft Bill was published and one year since the UK left the EU to get these plans in place. Their failure to do so is utterly incompetent. Will the Minister give us a precise date for both the next Report stage and the missing policy statement that is linked to the environmental principles? It is to those principles that I now turn, because my new clause 1 and amendment 1 are on the environmental principles, and I plan to push new clause 1 to a vote.

Ministers promised that, post Brexit, environmental standards would be not only maintained but enhanced, yet this Bill does not even come close to making up for what we have lost by leaving the EU. It sets out five important principles, including prevention, precaution and polluter pays. Under EU law, it is a requirement that those are actually applied when law making and that they cover all public bodies, not just Ministers. However, the Bill significantly weakens their legal status because they do not apply to public bodies, and there is no such duty on Ministers to act in accordance with the principles. Instead, there is only a duty to “have due regard” to a policy statement that the Government have not even bothered to published yet.

The Minister has tried to persuade us that “due regard” is at least as strong as “in accordance with”, yet her case simply does not stand up to scrutiny. In 2018, the Lords Select Committee on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 found that the duty to “have regard” to contained in that Act was

“weak, unenforceable and lacks clear meaning.”

Adding the word “due” in front of “regard” does not change that. There are plenty of examples of other legislation in which public authorities are required by statute to act in accordance with or to take actions to comply with—for example, the Marine Strategy Regulations 2010 or the Planning Act 2008.

We can only conclude that, in this instance, the Government deliberately intend to weaken these provisions and, as a consequence, to drive a coach and horses through fundamental EU protections. New clause 1 would extend the duty to all public authorities and broaden the scope of the principles. Crucially, it would strengthen the duty from “have due regard” to “act in accordance with”, and it would apply directly to the principles, rather than a non-existent policy statement.

Amendment 1 addresses further absurdities in the Bill—in this case, the exclusion of the Ministry of Defence, the Treasury, and indeed anyone spending resources within Government, from having to consider the principles at all. That really is ludicrous. My amendment therefore removes the proportionality limitation from the environmental principles, as well as the exclusions for the MOD and the Treasury.

New clause 17 is vital because it recognises that even if we do succeed in strengthening this Bill, efforts to protect and restore nature will ultimately fail unless we also address the underlying economic drivers of biodiversity and ecosystem destruction. The new clause therefore requires the Government to prepare a strategy for the adoption of new economic goals so that social and environmental gains sit at the heart of the Government’s economic plans and measurements. If we stick with the current economic rulebook, we will continue to see the hard work of DEFRA undermined by the overriding short-term economic priorities of the Treasury, and above all the pursuit of infinite GDP growth on a planet of finite resources. For decades, we have seen Ministers commit to environmental goals and targets only for those goals to be missed time and again. Nature’s dangerous decline continues apace, at a high cost to current and future generations. This time we need to do things differently. Some major business voices are also urging Government to do the same. Consider this from the Business for Nature coalition, which says:

“Governments, companies and financial organizations would take better decisions if they used information ‘beyond short-term profit and GDP’ that includes impacts and dependencies on nature, as well as synergies and trade-offs informed by science and planetary boundaries.”

New clause 17 is all about better, more consistent decision making across Government so that the environmental ambition in this Bill is not undermined by conflicting goals of other, more powerful Departments. While I will not be pressing it to a vote, I do hope that the Minister will commit to taking this forward with the urgency it requires.

Turning to amendment 21, green space has become more important than ever over the past 10 months, yet access to nature is far from equal. My amendment seeks to address that. Some 2.6 million people in the UK have no publicly accessible green space within walking distance, and one in eight British households has no access to a garden—an inequality that disproportionately affects those in black and minority ethnic communities. Currently the Bill states:

The Secretary of State may…set long-term targets”

on

“people’s enjoyment of the natural environment.”

However, because this is not a priority area, it risks being overlooked, with funding and resources being diverted elsewhere. My amendment remedies this omission by promoting access to and enjoyment of nature as a priority area for long-term targets. This change not only has the potential to equalise access to nature but would also come with wider benefits to physical and mental health.

Finally, I would like to indicate support for a number of other amendments, including amendment 23 on the Office for Environmental Protection. When it comes to enforcement, the OEP is being presented as a new, independent watchdog. In reality, it is more like a ministerial lapdog kept on a tight leash, with Ministers given the power to steer it by offering so-called guidance that the OEP is bound to consider. Since Ministers also control its budget and its board, it is entirely likely that such guidance will actually be felt, in practice, rather more as an instruction. The Minister has argued that the Government already routinely offer guidance to other non-departmental public bodies. While it is true that they do to some, they certainly do not have power to issue guidance in relation to bodies charged principally or partly with enforcing potential breaches of the law by other public bodies. That is a crucial difference. That is why I support the amendment that would delete this guidance, which was added to the Bill at a very late stage.

I also support amendments that intend to ensure that interim targets are legally binding. There are strong amendments to improve air quality, and to align our state of nature targets with those from the convention on biological diversity and with the objectives of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, which I introduced into Parliament last year.

This is a hugely important Bill. It is unbelievable that we are seeing, yet again, a delay to its coming forward. The Minister must now undertake that in the extra time she is going to achieve, she will strengthen the Bill to make it fit for purpose so that it comes close to some of the aspirations that she and her fellow Ministers have expressed before.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Before I call the Minister, let me say that, as I have indicated, there is a four-minute limit on Back-Bench contributions. The vast majority of contributions will be via videolink. Can I say to those who are contributing via videolink that there is a clock on the device you are using, so please keep an eye on it? There are no interventions on you, so it should be straightforward as to when you finish your contribution. If you try to exceed that time, you will be automatically cut off. For those contributing in the Chamber, the clocks will be working in the usual fashion.

Rebecca Pow Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Rebecca Pow)
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I would like to begin by setting out why this Environment Bill is so important. Members on all sides of the House agree that on the whole—despite, I must just say, some notable successes where farmers, Government and conservationists are working together—the desperate decline of our natural environment and biodiversity has gone on for far too long. We need to act to improve the quality and the quantity of habitats for our fellow species across the board, and we need to re-establish the equilibrium of the habitats and ecosystems.

Our UK indicator for farmland birds shows that we have had a decline of 50% in those birds since 1970. The lapwings I grew up with on the farm at home are no longer there, nor are the yellowhammers. Insect pollinators have declined by 30% since 1980, so in place of that hazy buzz we were all so used to there is now, in many places, silence. This matters not only because people treasure our species and habitats—and, goodness, we have really appreciated that in lockdown during the pandemic, have we not?—but because they underpin vital processes such as carbon storage or pollination. That is why we are laying the foundations for nature’s recovery through this Bill, delivering the tools needed to drive the change we want to see.

Legally binding targets for environmental improvement across at least four priority areas must be set. Our ambitious targets across air quality, water, waste and biodiversity will drive long-term action. Through this Government now and future Governments, we will be held accountable by Parliament if progress lags. I know the House will also be particularly interested to hear that we will set not one but two legally binding targets to tackle harmful air pollution across the country. The Bill will require current and future Governments to produce an environmental improvement plan, which must be reviewed and reported on regularly. The Bill creates a tough new independent Office for Environmental Protection to hold all public authorities—from local authorities to central Government—to account on reaching these goals. It will enforce the delivery of all environmental law, including, for example, our net zero target.

Rupa Huq Portrait Dr Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) (Lab)
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First, will the Minister congratulate year 4 from Christ Church primary, who have sent me 100 different essays on exactly the topic she is talking about and on deforestation? Secondly, what does she say to our own Chemical Industries Association, which bemoans our leaving REACH—the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals regulation—saying that it opens the door to harmful chemical pollution potentially to animals and humans, because it is the Government who are responsible for the replacement?

Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
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Of course, I would be absolutely delighted to welcome those essays from Christ Church primary school. Indeed, if the hon. Member would like me to send a letter from the Environment Minister, I would be delighted to do so. I am always very pleased to speak to our students and young children about what we are doing on the environment, and they are our future generations whom we are doing all this for, so I thank her for that. We are going to talk about REACH later—I engage very closely with the industry—so we will discuss that in the second grouping of amendments today.

Just before that intervention, I mentioned the new independent Office for Environmental Protection, and I would like to take this opportunity to provide the House with an update on the OEP. We want to ensure that this is located in a good long-term place and, trust me, there were an awful lot of contenders. After considering wider locations, we have decided that Worcester will be an excellent location for the headquarters of the OEP. This is part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring that opportunities are spread fairly across the country. My heart goes out to people in the area who may have been flooded this week, but I hope the OEP’s being based in Worcester gives a little bit of good news.

As the Prime Minister set out in the Government’s 10-point plan to net zero, protection, restoration and enhancement of our natural environment are crucial. The Bill will play a key part in that mission. I thank the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) for opening the debate by raising some important points on the environmental principles. The environmental principles will work together to protect the environment from damage by making environmental considerations central to the policy development process across Government. I am keen to hear views from across the House, and there are many references to the environmental principles in some of the other amendments, so I shall respond in more detail to some of her points on the principles and other important issues at the end of the debate. I reassure her, though, that we are working at pace: during the break between the two Report sessions, we will continue unstintingly to deliver measures in the Bill.

Before I go any further, let me mention some Government amendments, some of which make relatively technical changes that will improve and enhance the Bill. Government amendment 6, tabled by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, clarifies that both the terrestrial and the marine aspects of England’s natural environment will be considered when conducting the significant improvement test in clause 6. That has always been our intention, as I explained in Committee, but the amendment puts it beyond doubt. I am delighted that the amendment spells out that marine is absolutely part and parcel of what we mean when we talk about the environment.

With regard to the Office for Environmental Protection, Government amendment 31, also tabled by the Secretary of State, is a technical amendment that simply serves to clarify that section 31(2A) of the Senior Courts Act 1981 does not apply on an environmental review, providing the courts with a full range of remedies for the OEP environmental review procedure. Government amendments 9 to 20, also tabled by the Secretary of State, align the clauses relating to the OEP’s Northern Ireland enforcement functions with the amended part 1 provisions. Those amendments were personally requested by Northern Ireland Ministers.

I welcome the opportunity to hear from hon. Friends and Members on both sides of the House on this vital Bill, and I look forward to responding at the end of the debate.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)
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I rise to speak to new clause 9 and amendments 25, 39 and 23 in my name and those of my hon. Friends.

Parliament declared a climate and ecological emergency on 1 May 2019. A year and a half has passed, and the need for more urgent action on the environment has only increased. If we are to avoid catastrophic climate change that would only destroy jobs, homes, biodiversity and our planet, we have just nine short years to cut carbon emissions and protect nature, according to the UN’s experts on climate and biodiversity. As David Attenborough says,

“the living world is on course to tip and collapse. Indeed, it has already begun to do so”.

This Bill is a cobbled-together set of disparate actions that is sinking under the weight of greenwash that has been applied by Ministers. It does not take the urgent action that is so desperately needed.

This legislation is not perfect by any means, but the Bill should already be law. The deliberate pausing of Report stage after today means that some amendments will not be debated by MPs until May, the Bill will not be in the House of Lords until just before the summer, and it risks not being on the statute book until the autumn. That means we could be waiting over six months more for an environmental watchdog, for powers to stop our children breathing unsafe air, and to regulate Ministers’ actions. The Minister said that she did not want to see a delay in the Bill, while she was moving a motion to delay the Bill. That simply is not good enough. What a terrible message to send to the world in the year we are hosting COP26. It was supposed to be in law before Britain left the Brexit transition period and it is not. It was supposed to be bold and world-leading because of the urgency of the climate crisis and it is not.

This is a go-slow Government when it comes to environmental action. If we could solve the climate crisis with press releases then the planet would have nothing to worry about, but it is actions, not words, that we need. We need faster action to create the well-paid green jobs our communities need, and we need bolder action on improving standards and protecting habitats and species, so we can strengthen our economy and rebuild our country. If building back better after the pandemic is to be genuine, and not a smash and grab on the language of the environmental left, it must be underpinned by bold policy.

The Bill has a number of important issues, so let me deal with some of the main ones—first, air quality. The whole House remembers Ella Kissi-Debrah, a nine-year-old girl who tragically died following an asthma attack in London seven years ago. The coroner’s court found that air pollution made a material contribution to Ella’s death. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft) for working with Ella’s mum Rosamund in demanding bolder action. This Sunday would have been Ella’s 17th birthday. As her mum wrote in The Sun on Sunday:

“Had WHO air pollution limits been in place and enforced then, according to the Coroner’s report, she would still be here today.”

Air quality is a matter of social justice, of equality and of poverty and requires fundamental change in the way we do business.

There are three amendments on air quality in the names of my Devon colleague the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), and my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) and in my own name. All the amendments seek real action on air pollution. Labour will back all of them if they are put to the vote. According to figures published by NHS England, on average 5% of deaths in those over 30 can be attributed to PM2.5 air pollution. What that means is 40,000 deaths a year are caused by poor air—40,000 deaths. The Confederation of British Industry estimates that a £1.6 billion economic benefit to the UK could be released if we met WHO guidelines.

It is frankly bizarre that, faced with such mounting evidence of the unnecessary deaths caused by poor air, Ministers still refuse to put WHO air quality standards into law. I want to see the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs step up and hold Ministers’ feet to the fire. That means taking the case for the toughest WHO air quality targets to force the Department for Transport, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and other Departments to radically up their game. If Ministers still refuse to accept our amendments, can the Minister confirm she will use the powers in the Bill to adopt WHO targets and exceed them if she can whenever the Bill eventually gets on the statute book? A Labour Government would adopt WHO targets because it is simply the right thing to do, so that everyone in all our communities has clean air to breathe.

Steve Brine Portrait Steve Brine (Winchester) (Con)
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Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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I will not for time’s sake.

You cannot build back better if you are struggling to breathe.

Secondly, let me to turn to the Office for Environmental Protection. The Bill should have been passed by the end of the Brexit transition period, and the OEP should be up and running now. Labour offered to work with Ministers to ensure that that happened, but here we are with that date passed and the Bill still unlikely to become law until autumn, which is a year too late. That means the UK is now without an environmental watchdog, as the OEP has not yet been set up. We are concerned that it will be a weak watchdog with no real teeth. Calling it tough will in itself not make it tough. The OEP needs to be vigorously independent. That is why our amendment would delete a clause that would allow the Secretary of State to give guidance to the OEP and effectively let the Government mark their own homework. It is backed by the cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, which concluded that we should make sure that

“every step is taken to ensure the Office for Environmental Protection is as independent from the Government as possible”.

Although I think many of us would have preferred an out-and-out environmentalist to be leading the OEP, the appointment of Dame Glenys Stacey is welcome and I hope the board members she is now recruiting will look a tad greener. But I must say to the Minister that, as a south-west Member of Parliament, I am deeply concerned that the Government have just robbed the south-west of the Office for Environmental Protection. She will know it was announced in October 2019 that it would be going to Bristol. She knows that the expectation was that this would be a south-west-based regulator and she knows of the anger—the anger—that this will cause in the south-west on finding out it has been sent to somewhere that she claims is near Bristol. Worcester is nowhere near Bristol and that promise is nowhere near being met. The south-west has been robbed of a regulator and I think that is deeply, deeply worrying.

Let me turn briefly to bees and Labour’s amendment to prevent the Government from lifting the ban on bee-killing chemicals. I am a fan of bees; my family keeps bees on a farm in Cornwall. Since 1900, the UK has lost 13 out of 35 native bee species. Bees are essential to the future of our planet, to pollenating our crops and to our rich tapestry of biodiversity, so bee health is non-negotiable. That is what MPs on both sides of the House say in good times, so I expect them to say it now. Labour’s amendment would oppose the Conservative plan to lift the ban on bee-killing pesticides. If bee health really is non-negotiable, the ban must not be set aside just because it is convenient to do so now. There is no doubt that sugar beet farmers have been hit hard by crop blight, but lifting the ban is not the solution. Improved sugar contracts, compensation and accelerating blight-resistant varieties are a much better answer.

Labour backs our British farmers. We stood with them against the Government over food standards, and we do so again in relation to the risk to small family farms from the new farm payment support scheme. Conservative Members will no doubt talk about how many European nations have also sought to lift the ban on bee-killing chemicals, but this is about England. It is about what we do as a country and whether we take the tough calls to address the ecological crisis or make excuses about going backwards. Today, Labour MPs will vote to save the bees, and the Government will whip Conservative MPs to allow the ban on bee-killing pesticides to be lifted. In the year that Britain hosts COP26, when we should be a showcase for environmental best practice and shine as a force for good—a beacon nation—we will be allowing more bees and pollinators to be killed by neonicotinoid pesticides. We should save the bees and back amendment 39.

Labour will not vote against the Bill today. We will not do anything to frustrate our fight against the climate and nature emergency. Even go-slow action is better than no action at all, but we will push our amendments to a vote because the Bill really should have been better and bolder. It should embed an insatiable drive and a green passion at the very heart of the Government, but it does not. I am proudly red on the outside and green on the inside. Instead of being a deep green, the Bill is merely a bland beige—necessary and needed, but pedestrian in its ambition. It needs more focus and priority than the Government have offered to date.

Labour will also be supporting amendments from my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) on the state of nature and the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), with whom we have common cause in the climate and ecological emergency. The Bill does not do enough, and neither is it fast enough. I genuinely want us to build back better, but if the Bill was insufficient before the pandemic, it is wholly inadequate now that the pandemic’s horrors have been laid bare. I encourage the House of Lords to get the Bill to where it should be, and I urge Members of this House to put our planet, our precious habitats and our vulnerable species first and to vote for the amendments.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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With a four-minute limit, I call Neil Parish via video link.

Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con) [V]
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I thank DEFRA Ministers for their hard work on the Bill.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has looked at the Environment Bill over the past few years. We have given it pre-legislative scrutiny and looked at the Office for Environmental Protection and issues such as plastic waste, tree planting and air quality. The Bill has come back to Parliament in several shapes and sizes, and I think that might be about to happen again. I hope that the Government are carrying over the Bill to the next Session because they want to amend it to include all my amendments on deforestation and air quality.

The Amazon is losing an area twice the size of Devon every year to deforestation. Government amendments to ban sales from illegal deforestation go some way, but we can go further still and target the finance behind that. I will speak about air quality in the second debate today; there is an environmental and public health emergency that needs swift action. I appreciate the Government’s argument that we need more time to do work on the science, but we have known about the seriousness of the situation for many years, so it cannot be put off much longer.

We also need to ensure that the Bill comes back quickly in the summer, because we currently have an environmental governance gap. The Government and public authorities are not being adequately held to account over their compliance with environmental law, and it is not the best look. The court of public opinion is ultimately our judge, so I gently suggest that the Bill should be brought back immediately in the next Session to demonstrate its importance.

Now that we are outside the EU, we do not have the Commission to fine us and hold us to account. We are rating ourselves and we need a strong protection in domestic law in this Environment Bill. We also need a strong Office for Environmental Protection, and I welcome the appointment of Dame Glenys Stacey as chairman of the OEP. Through this process, I have called for the chair to have independence from Government. Dame Glenys Stacey’s track record as an effective regulator through using both carrot and stick to hold public bodies to account means I have faith in her achieving that independence, but in common with other Government agencies the OEP needs resources and teeth to bite. The OEP will not be independent if it is constantly worrying about its budget. The Government and Ministers have excellent environmental credentials and I do not think they will water down protection in any way, but we need to act more quickly and should be a little bit braver when it comes to scrutiny.

We also have a duty now to set the right environmental laws and framework for the future Governments and generations. The Prime Minister is taking up the green recovery and DEFRA Ministers also believe in a better environment, as do many in this House and across the country. We are fortunate to be hosting COP26 later this year; it is an exciting time for environmental policy in this country. Outside the EU we have a real opportunity do better and show global leadership on issues of global importance; whether in air quality, water quality, soil health, tree planting, plastic waste or species protection, we should be ambitious with our environment policy.

This Environment Bill is a landmark Bill and the Government have put great effort into it over several years. With a few more tweaks and a firm commitment to bring the Bill back early in the next Session we can set a great example to the rest of the world and have a modern Environment Act of which we can all be proud.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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We now go to a video link, and it is a Front-Bench contribution from Deirdre Brock; happy Australia Day, Deirdre.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP) [V]
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Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker.

I shall speak to Scottish National party amendments 43 and 44. This Bill concerns England in the main; most of these policy areas are devolved and Scotland has its own environmental legislation, which, frankly, is light years ahead. This Bill has made its way rather painfully through the process, and it has seemed for far too much of that time that it was more about the UK Government trying to hide the fact that they have no real environmental ambition to speak of.

Only a few months after stepping in to overturn a council’s planning permission for an opencast mine, the Government have chosen to stay out of the planning process for a deep coalmine near Whitehaven in Cumbria. Less trusting folk than me have suggested that that might have something to do with what happened in that constituency in December 2019, but such cynicism is surely unfounded.

The UK has made little or no progress in tackling the really big-ticket items—carbon emissions, air and water pollution, tree planting, and so on. In fact, one of the area’s explicitly excluded from this Bill, the military, is one of the worst offenders. I have talked at great length about the environmental impacts that we know of, particularly the historical dumping of unwanted explosives, ammunition, ordnance, radioactive waste and so on into the sea, and we know that the area around Beaufort’s Dyke between Scotland and Ireland has millions of tonnes of unsavoury stuff littering the sea floor, but we do not know what is down there, because the dump records have been mislaid and the Ministry of Defence appears to have no intention of seeking to clean it up.

Similarly, I have been told that the MOD has done environmental impact studies on its land estates, but they have not been shared. There was a report in May, however, by Scientists for Global Responsibility, which found that the carbon footprint of British military spending was around 11 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent, some of it relating to arms exports but most of it from MOD operations.

That is not all: not one single nuclear submarine has been dismantled since the first one was decommissioned more than 40 years ago; four decades on and the UK has more redundant nuclear subs in storage than it has in use. I should add, too, the hundreds of nuclear safety breaches at the naval bases on the Clyde that I discovered through written questions, which are interestingly not matched by similar figures elsewhere.

It is clear that the environmental impact of military operations is more than substantial, even if it is not officially acknowledged. I would have thought that any Government who wanted to—in the Prime Minister’s words—

“do extraordinary things on the environment”

would want to do something about that, so I assume that it was an error that led someone in Government to exempt defence, national security and the armed forces from the requirement to have due regard to the policy statement on environmental provisions, and from any consideration of environmental issues on tax, spending and allocation of resources.

I raised this issue in Committee, so Ministers have had plenty of time to consider it, and they should consider reversing their position. The procedural oddities of this place will not allow for everything to be considered, so this issue has taken a back seat for the moment to allow Labour’s amendment on neonicotinoids to be voted on. That is a devolved issue and treated differently in Scotland, but it is of course important for England.

We have 10 months until COP26 takes place in Glasgow —pandemics permitting—and the UK Government really have to step up to the plate and start showing some real leadership. Talking about it is not enough. Painting the fence green is not enough. The Government actually have to become green, become environmentally friendly, and work for the future of the planet and of the human race. In the past year, we have seen how a virus can disrupt our world, but that would be nothing compared to the devastation that the climate crisis threatens. We all have a role to play in addressing that challenge, but there is little point in individual households doing what they can while the Government fail to do what they are capable of.

I think that this Bill will go down as a missed opportunity, but that does not mean that the Government are powerless to act. I look forward to a change in priorities and a move to action. This is not a time to delay, defer and dissemble; it is a time to move forward purposefully. The question for the Government is not whether they win or lose their battles today, but whether they really decide to lead over the next year and the coming years.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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The four-minute limit is now imposed again for all further Back-Bench contributions.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con) [V]
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I will speak to my amendment 4. The precautionary principle is a whole new way for the Government to legislate on environmental matters which can be applied to a huge range of environmental principles. It could be used in the extreme—for example, to introduce policies such as stopping people from driving motor cars on the basis that they damage the environment. In an increasingly legislative field, my amendment is so important in ensuring that the Government can clearly define the purposes for use of the precautionary principle, beyond those in the mere principles statements outlined in clauses 16 to 18.

The Minister said in a letter to me this morning: “I can confirm that Ministers of the Crown are only required to have due regard to the policy statement when making policy by virtue of clause 18(1). The environmental principles duty is not designed to apply to individual decisions or other public bodies.” In other words, the statement of principles is pretty nearly toothless.

My amendment would clearly constrain when and where the precautionary principle can be used. I ask the Minister, when she sums up, to go further than just going into the principles; I ask her to include some of my amendment in the Bill. A particularly important part is subsection (3C), which says:

“The precautionary principle should only apply in response to risks that are…more than hypothetical in nature; and…serious and irreversible.”

I cannot see any reason at all why that should not be in the Bill. If the Minister is not inclined to include it, I hope that their lordships will pick it up when the Bill goes to the House of Lords.

The precautionary principle is not consistently applied to different activity; it is frequently used to constrain certain activities where any impacts are deemed to be unacceptable. For example, Natural England is currently seeking to restrict game shooting around European protected sites. Due to evidence of damage in only five—a mere 1.5% of all sites—it wants to introduce a licensing system.

In summing up, can the Minister please bear in mind all the constraints that are in my amendments? Otherwise, this principle could well become oppressive to people’s freedom in the future, and we may well rue the day that we put the provision in the Bill. I am looking to the Minister to tell me why some or all of my constraints cannot be included in the Bill, because that is where they should be. The statement of principles, as written in the Bill, is pretty nearly toothless, and the precautionary principle gives the Minister, or any future Minister, a huge overwhelming power, which we may well live to regret.

Hilary Benn Portrait Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab) [V]
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I wish to speak to new clause 5 on the state of nature target.

There are few things that can lift our spirits as much as time spent with nature. Who does not feel a sense of awe and wonder at the astonishing biodiversity of our landscape, its creatures and its plants. As well as ensuring that that same sense of awe and wonder can be enjoyed by future generations, it should be self-preservation, frankly, that urges us to confront the threat of biodiversity and habitat loss. We should have respect for the soil from which we came—the soil that has given us everything that we can see around us: food; fuel; raw materials; medicines; and the ability to capture carbo. It is the soil to which we will, one day, all return—a reminder of our place in the natural order of things.

The truth is that we can no longer take all this for granted. Why? It is because we are destroying our natural world at an alarming rate. In the words of the Minister’s own Department:

“Much of England’s wildlife-rich habitat has been lost over the last century…and there has been widespread species loss.”

The latest state of nature report records a decline of 13% in the abundance of UK species since 1970. Some 15% of UK species are now endangered, including the red squirrel, the water vole, the ghost orchid, and the meadow clary. The number of moths has decreased significantly in the past 50 years and a third of British wild bees and hoverflies are in decline. A total of 97% of our wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s. This is a crisis caused by agricultural practices, pollution, urbanisation, habitat loss and climate change, and it requires action, and that is what this new clause seeks to do.

I welcome the Government’s commitment to binding targets, but I think that it can be strengthened to make a good Bill better by including a target to halt and begin to reverse the decline of habitats and species by 2030. That should not be too difficult in principle for the Minister, because this is exactly what the United Kingdom called for in drawing up the leaders’ pledge for nature, which commits to reversing biodiversity loss by 2030. But, of course, to reverse loss, one must first halt it. The problem is that the Bill’s timetable for setting targets does not fit in with the 2030 biodiversity pledge, so the new clause would place a requirement on Ministers to draw up, before the Conference of the Parties later on this year, a 2030 state of nature target to halt and begin to reverse the decline in species and habitats and to set out a plan to do so, including how the target would be measured. It would need to cover the abundance of species, their risk of extinction and the extent and condition of habitats, bearing in mind that widely accepted and reliable sets of indicators already exist to enable us to assess these things.

I accept that the target is ambitious, but if we are not going to be ambitious now, when will we be ambitious for the state of nature? It is not as if we do not know what works to bring about change for the better. We do. We just need a lot more of it. The truth is this: we have always known that the natural environment sustains our souls, but we have now come to understand that it also sustains our very existence. That is why it matters and that is why we should do now what we know in our hearts to be right. I hope the House will vote for the new clause.

Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con) [V]
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I am pleased to be able to make a brief contribution to this important debate. It is a great relief to see the Bill come back to this House, but equally it is a great disappointment to learn that it will be back just for today and we will have to wait until the next parliamentary Session begins after Easter for the second allocated day. When the Minister responds to the debate, will she give some indication that she intends to ensure that the Bill receives Royal Assent as soon as possible and that procedures in the Lords conclude before the summer recess? We must go into the COP26 conference in November with clarity that this ground-breaking piece of legislation is on the statute book.

I wish to speak about two aspects of the Bill, the first of which is the Office for Environmental Protection. I am delighted to welcome the Minister’s announcement today that the OEP headquarters will be in Worcester in the west midlands, near my constituency. Worcester is, of course, on the River Severn, which is the largest river in the country and has recently been in flood through my constituency. The whole Severn catchment area requires considerable attention and will get greater focus thanks to Dame Glenys Stacey’s presence at the headquarters from time to time, in her new role.

Alongside the EFRA Committee, the Environmental Audit Committee did pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill, and we called for a greater degree of independence for the OEP. Having met Dame Glenys at our pre-appointment hearing in December, we took some comfort from our opinion that she is the right person to lead the organisation, but we are concerned that she has sufficient budget to recruit the number of people required and the experts she needs, and to reflect the OEP’s responsibilities in helping to deliver the 25-year plan.

When the Environmental Audit Committee did pre-legislative scrutiny, we were also concerned about the environmental improvement plans. We felt that the OEP should advise the Government on the establishment of targets, as was the case under the previous regulatory regime through the European Commission. We welcome the fact that targets are enshrined in the Bill but think it important that the body that will have part of the responsibility to monitor compliance with those targets is also involved in setting them. We would very much like to see confirmation from the Minister that the date for establishing the environmental targets can be confirmed with a statement of intent ahead of COP26.

The second aspect I wish to speak about is amendment 28, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham). It would require the Government to include in the environmental plan steps to improve people’s enjoyment of the natural environment. As part of our inquiry into biodiversity and ecosystems, my Committee has repeatedly heard that central to restoring our greatly depleted natural environment—about which we have heard from other speakers—is building a better relationship between people and nature. It was called for in the Glover review; we would like to see it enshrined in the Bill and urge the Government to support amendment 28.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op) [V]
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I speak in favour of amendment 2, which was tabled by the Chair of the EFRA Committee, the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), and would put into law the World Health Organisation air quality limits.

I speak as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on air pollution. I introduced my own clean air Bill four years ago, in 2017, at which time the Royal College of Physicians had already reported that 40,000 people in Britain were dying prematurely every year, at a cost of £20 billion. The figure is now thought to be 64,000 people. Air pollution affects people’s brains, hearts and lungs. The mental and physical health of unborn children is affected, as is young children’s concentration. It can also affect people in terms of depression, anxiety and dementia—so the list goes on. In fact, the number of covid deaths is up 8% for each microgram of PM2.5.

DEFRA claims that overall pollution has come down in the past 10 years, but the reason for that is that we have closed down our coal-fired power stations and exported our manufacturing. In urban environments, the deaths and the pollution are going up, and that is why we need these limits to be imposed universally. It is the poorest and most diverse neighbourhoods that are suffering most from the pollution and hence from the greatest levels of covid deaths. It is no good the Government saying that they will have average concentrations, where they average the amounts of concentration in a rural environment with those in a toxic urban environment. Those limits would not have saved the life of Ella Kissi- Debrah, who tragically died. The coroner’s inquest heard that the cause of death was the levels of air pollution that caused her asthma, which caused her to go into hospital 28 times in just three years before her tragic death. We want World Health Organisation universal limits applied so that thousands of children can be saved and protected.

It is everyone’s right to have clean air, and it is the Government’s duty to deliver that right. We therefore need amendment 2, which is a guiding light around which other targets can coalesce. It requires PM2.5 to be 10 micrograms per cubic metre by 2030. We need all Government Departments and public bodies to work together to achieve this, as set out in new clause 6. Unfortunately, the Government are just saying that they will have targets in 2022. Those targets will not be legally enforceable and they will be able to be changed. That simply is not good enough. For Ella’s sake, for the sake of thousands of children up and down Britain, and for all of us, we need World Health Organisation standards in legislation, and I hope that that will be agreed today.

Finally, I turn to new clause 11, tabled by the hon. Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder). I sponsored a plastics Bill in 2018. The fact is that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. UK supermarkets alone produce 114 billion pieces a year. We need the producers and the polluters to pay a tax on virgin plastic. I would certainly support that, because millions of birds and animals are dying. We are ingesting the microplastics that get into fish and inhaling plastic that is in our clothes and washing machines. In a nutshell, as we approach COP26 we should be showing leadership to the world in stopping our oceans choking, stopping our children choking, protecting our air, protecting our oceans and protecting our environment.

Tim Loughton Portrait Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)
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This is a ground-breaking Bill. There is much of merit in it, although you would not believe it to listen to some of the contributions from the Opposition Benches. There are many good amendments, and I would single out new clauses 14 and 15 from my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) about linking housing targets and planning permissions.

In the limited time available, I want to talk about my amendment 5 on interim targets. Setting targets is easy. Governments like to set headline-grabbing targets, but too often the small print belies the ambition of the target, and the target date is in the dim and distant future. That can instil complacency and lethargy, because there is plenty of time to hit the mark and there is therefore no need to panic. When it comes to climate change, however, there is every need, if not to panic, at least to put our foot on the gas, metaphorically, and to act with urgency and immediacy.

The 2050 net zero target is almost 30 years away, and it should be a “last possible date by which”. It should be subject to a constant audit as to how quickly and by how far we can constantly bring that end date forward. It must also be an end date for a clearly set out progression to reducing harmful emissions and creating a net carbon environmentally benefiting economy. We need things to show a marked improvement from today, and so it should be with the natural environmental improvement targets in this Bill. My amendment is simple. It adds just four words in an additional subsection to clause 4, making it the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that “interim targets are met.” That amendment would guarantee continuous incremental improvements in the natural environment, helping to keep all things environmental high up the Government’s list of priorities. It would bring the Environment Bill target framework into line with the approach of the Climate Change Act 2008, where there are five-yearly legally binding targets as milestones to the long-term legally binding target of net zero by 2050.

At the moment, the only recourse for the Office for Environmental Protection, if the Government miss an interim target, will be to criticise them in its annual report. That could of course be ignored by Ministers and Governments until the long-term target was missed, when enforcement action would actually kick in. Frankly, the power of policing this has to have more teeth than the ability of the environmental policemen to shout, “Stop, or I’ll shout ‘stop’ again!” Friends of the Earth has said:

“If these targets are not binding upon the Secretary of State it would be a huge missed opportunity to ensure the EIP system drives sustained, tangible environmental improvement—and would undermine the rationale for setting such goals in the first instance.”

Steve Brine Portrait Steve Brine
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Will my hon. Friend give way?

Tim Loughton Portrait Tim Loughton
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I do not think so, but my hon. Friend is very kind. It is only because Madam Deputy Speaker is looking daggers at me.

Five-yearly interim targets also need to be set in the environmental improvement plans. However, the environmental improvement plans are not legally binding—they are simply policy documents—and all the plans need to be reviewed and potentially updated every five years and reported on every year. This is not the same as legal accountability.

There are many cases, I am afraid, where targets have not been met. The target set in 2010 for ending the inclusion of peat in amateur gardening products by 2020 will be missed. The targets set in 2011 for DEFRA to conserve 50% of England’s sites of special scientific interest by 2020 have been abandoned, so it is really important that interim targets must be legally binding to guarantee that they will be delivered on. It is vital that there is a robust legal framework in place that actually holds the Government and public authorities to account in the short term. Binding interim targets can provide near-term certainty for business, creating the sort of stable environment that encourages investment in the workforce and in green products and services. They would focus businesses on planning the trajectory towards long-term targets and help to drive innovation in the business model.

I am pleased to have business support for this amendment. I am particularly grateful to the Aldersgate Group for the supporting letter from a group of businesses published today. Clear, binding, interim targets that are legally enforceable can be good for certainty, good for business and good for the environment. Let us pass this amendment.

Jonathan Edwards Portrait Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (Ind) [V]
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Diolch, Madam Deputy Speaker; it is a pleasure to speak briefly in this debate to the amendment in my name and in support of the many excellent amendments tabled by colleagues from across the House.

While they were open, my visits to schools were able to continue over Zoom; it has been one of the pleasures during this difficult lockdown. The common theme in these sessions is always questions about the climate crisis. The sense of urgency among young people is palpable, yet I fear that in decades to come, they will look back at the decision makers of today and ask why, despite all the warning signs, we did not do more when we had the chance. I want Wales to seize that chance and use our natural resources and innovation to fuel our recovery and transition to a sustainable economy. We have the capacity and capability to do it, but too often, our efforts are being hampered by Westminster. There has been the refusal to support the Swansea bay tidal lagoon, the pitiful track record on rail investment, and a flat refusal to empower the Welsh Government with powers over energy policy or meaningful economic levers.

I fear greatly that the latest power grab will see any climate ambitions set by the Senedd actively undermined by Westminster. I am talking, of course, of the powers grabbed via the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 to spend in devolved areas, which the British state intends to use to deliver the shared prosperity fund. It takes very little imagination to picture a scenario in which the British Government bypass the will of our democratically elected Senedd and pursue their Union Jack-plastered pet project in Wales without any regard for the environmental consequences.

Amendment 40 in my name seeks to defend Wales from Westminster intrusion. It would require that an impact assessment is carried out on the effect on environmental targets set by the Senedd of any infrastructure project that the British dare to seek to deliver in Wales via the shared prosperity fund or any other mechanism. Where the effect is found to be a negative one, my amendment would give the Senedd a veto on the project.

While I will not push this amendment to a vote this evening, I seek reassurances from the British Government. I want a guarantee that Wales will be free to not only set, but achieve more ambitious targets on achieving net zero, improving air quality and reducing plastic waste, without any interference from Westminster. By introducing the Bill, the British Government have rightly made much of the importance of setting long-term environmental targets and establishing lines of accountability. Is not it only right that the Welsh Government are fully accountable for any decisions that affect Wales’s environmental targets?

I briefly pledge my support for new clause 17, which would require the UK Government to deliver a strategy setting out how the economic recovery can be designed to improve our wellbeing and environment. I also support new clause 9, which would ensure that anyone with responsibility under this legislation must comply with the commitment to achieving a healthy, resilient, biodiverse natural environment. I welcome amendments that seek to strengthen, and hold the Government to account on, the promise to combat global deforestation, and to set targets for the reduction and replacement of animal testing for the purposes of chemicals regulation.

We do have an opportunity to make a difference, and the next time I talk to young people in my constituency, I want to be able to show them that we are taking it. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Chris Grayling Portrait Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell) (Con) [V]
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I start by welcoming this Bill and praising the Government for bringing it before the House. I know it is disappointing that the Bill will not make it into law until the next Session, but it is a world-leading piece of legislation. Whether it is because of the scientific warnings about climate change, the loss of biodiversity, air quality issues, or the need to create a better environment around us all, the measures in this Bill represent a major step forward. Although there will be a lot of debate about whether the Bill should be enhanced and how, I hope that all who propose changes to it recognise what an important measure it is.

I shall seek to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, when the Bill reaches the second day of Report, to move my amendment on the protection of the hedgehog and to speak about forest protection. Today, though, I want to focus on the first part of the Bill, particularly the requirements to prepare an environmental improvement plan and to set targets for improvements. The 25-year environment plan that the Government produced two years ago provides an essential and world-leading blueprint for the kind of change that is needed. It covers a whole range of issues, but in particular I want targets and updates of the plan to focus on habitat restoration and protection here, and I want tangible measures to incentivise and support the restoration and protection of habitats in other parts of the world. We have to be world leaders in protecting our species and encouraging other people to do the same.

The loss of biodiversity in the UK has been tragic. Whether we are talking about the disappearance of birds from our gardens and hedgerows, the decline in the numbers of much-loved species such as the hedgehog, or the challenges of our marine environment, it is the job of this generation to start to turn the tide. The decline is even more tragic in other parts of the world, with large numbers of iconic species in real danger of disappearing and with habitat being lost at an alarming rate. The implementation of this Bill, the targets that are set and the ongoing improvement plan must tackle this disaster in our country, and help to do so for our planet.

In other parts of the world, deforestation is a key part of the problem, and this Bill must play a part in ensuring that the UK says to the world, “Enough is enough.” We will come back to that next time. Here, the issue is not deforestation—we have more trees today than we have had for centuries, and we have ambitions to plant more—but we have intense development pressures. We do need new homes and we need to tackle some of our infrastructure challenges, but new developments must have a smart strategy for environmental protection alongside them, particularly to avoid the unnecessary destruction of habitats.

We need to grow more food here and stop importing so much from around the world, so we need a bigger and stronger farming sector, but it must protect biodiversity. The measures to do so in this Bill and in the Agriculture Act 2020 are very welcome. We need to take some tough decisions about invasive species, because we have to stop outsiders multiplying in a way that drives our native species to extinction. The targets set under this Bill must put biodiversity at the heart of our strategy, and the duties that it places on local communities must also strengthen biodiversity.

In the coming weeks, we will hear a lot of thoughts and ideas about additional things that could be done to improve our environment, but we must give the Government credit. This Bill can and will make a difference, and I look forward to it becoming law. Given the delay, however, the need to act on biodiversity starts now. Although I know that we must wait for the Bill to pass into statute, I want Ministers to make this a central part of their work now. The powers in this Bill will help them to do so in the future, but protecting our species and protecting biodiversity here, and encouraging others around the world to do the same, must start right now.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con)
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I rise to support my new clauses 14 and 15. The core principle of the Bill is that safeguarding the environment should be at the heart of decision making right across Government, and that must include the planning system. New clauses 14 and 15 would give the OEP the power to veto or reduce housing targets and require new developments to be consistent with our net zero carbon target. Of course, the environmental net gain provisions in the Bill will generate, via the planning system, a welcome flow of investment into nature. I also welcome the Government’s recent abandonment of their housing target algorithm, which generated impossibly high numbers, but for London, that threat remains for the longer term. We also have a planning Bill due soon.

My fear is that the Government’s determination to “build, build, build” could compromise the environmental ambition of the Bill that we are considering. Let us face it, nothing has a greater physical impact on the landscape than the buildings we construct. Successive generations have been judged by the legacy of the built environment they have left behind. By giving environmental and climate concerns a greater weight in the housing and planning system, my new clauses are an appeal to Ministers not to repeat the mistakes of the ’60s and ’70s, which their algorithm makes me fear that they will.

Even with Ministers’ change of heart on the algorithm, the housing targets remain very high. That could mean a drive for ever denser, ever higher blocks consuming ever more of the green spaces we value so much, and never more so than in a time of covid. Local input into the planning system provides a formidable defence for the environment, and I ask the Government to drop their White Paper proposals to remove local decision making for areas designated for growth.

Despite the measures that I would like to see added to the Bill, Members should be in no doubt of my strong support for this legislation, which I introduced as DEFRA Secretary in its first iteration in the last Parliament. The Bill will mark a historic turning point as we establish a demanding and rigorous framework of legally binding targets, improvement plans and measures to protect biodiversity and crack down on waste and plastics pollution.

As many Members have said, we are at a crisis point for nature and for climate. We need urgent action to arrest the decline in habitats and the threat posed to thousands of species both here and overseas. We hold this earth in trust for those who come after us. If we are to have any chance of being the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it, we need to make big changes to the way we do things in this country, and I am confident that this Bill will help us do that.

Mick Whitley Portrait Mick Whitley (Birkenhead) (Lab) [V]
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The ecological and climate crises will be the defining issues of the 21st century. In a few short years, climate breakdown is likely to transform the way we live. The floods that devastated communities across England last week provided a stark reminder of how incredibly high the stakes are. Now the heavy responsibility falls on those of us who serve in this place to ensure that future generations inherit a liveable planet. Through taking bold and decisive action now and driving forward change on the international stage, we can roll back the ecological crisis and build a fairer, greener economy in its wake, but I am afraid that the Government’s ambitions fail to meet the scale of the challenge.

The Prime Minister has called for a green Brexit, but at the same time he is replacing the EU’s comprehensive package of environmental protections with four simple targets that the Environment Secretary can change at will. That is why I urge Members across the House to support new clause 9, which would oblige anyone exercising responsibilities in relation to the Environment Bill to adhere to broader commitments such as the Climate Change Act 2008 and the United Nations leaders’ pledge for nature.

I also support amendment 39, which would guarantee parliamentary scrutiny when the Government want to allow the use of plant protection products that endanger bees and other pollinators. I know that I was not alone in being concerned by the Environment Secretary’s decision to temporarily lift the ban on bee-killing pesticides. That decision flies in the face of the Government’s own commitment to fight biodiversity loss and was made without consulting Parliament. Of course we all sympathise with farmers who are currently wrestling with crop blight, but those pesticides pose an existential threat to bee populations and other pollinator species, which play such a vital role in pollinating 70% of the crops we eat. I do not think it is hyperbolic to say that our future depends on bees.

I warmly thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) for tabling new clause 5, which would commit the Environment Secretary to tackling and reversing biodiversity loss in England by 2030. While I welcome the proposals to establish an Office of Environmental Protection, I am deeply concerned that it would lack the necessary powers and independence to truly do its job. I will therefore be supporting amendment 23.

The Government had the opportunity to use their Bill to put the environment at the heart of their policy making. The Bill fails even to maintain existing environmental standards, let alone make the UK a world leader in environmental policy. The fact that the Bill will now be delayed until later this year is yet another dispiriting sign that the Government, for all their rhetoric, simply are not serious about tackling the climate change and ecological emergencies.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I want to try to accommodate everybody on the speaking list, so after the next speaker I will reduce the time limit to three minutes.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con) [V]
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The amendment in my name—amendment 28 to this important Bill, which has so much to celebrate—is supported by the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne), the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) and many others from different parties across this House. It would oblige the Government to include steps to improve people’s enjoyment of the natural environment in their environmental plan, rather than simply give them the option to do so. It substitutes for a “may” a “must”—an addition of one letter to recognise the vital importance of green spaces to all our constituents. That is especially true during the pandemic and lockdown, when our parks, big or small, have literally kept many of us sane. The numbers of visitors is up sharply and some inequalities of access—such as for those living in cities, and many ethnic minorities—have been exposed.

It is estimated that for every £1 spent in a park, an extra £7 of value to wellbeing, health and environment is created. Eight out of 10 adults agree that visiting the countryside is good for physical fitness and mental wellbeing. People spending time in green spaces can help reduce heart disease and obesity, cancer and also stress, and in this time of lockdown we need all those things more than ever.

Many people in green spaces can and should also be a good thing, not a bad thing, for the environment. For example, in my constituency of Gloucester, we have the joy of a wonderful green space right in the heart of the city, the Robinswood Hill country park, which gives an opportunity for every child to have the experience of sitting on their mother or father’s shoulders and watching for the first time, on the top of the hill, the sunset over the River Severn in the summer—one of the most beautiful things that anyone can do. That in turn stimulates enjoyment of our green places and also environmentally friendly behaviour, encouraging litter picking, as well as bringing more people into the parks.

In this short space of time, may I highlight the support of the Ramblers, who understand so clearly the importance of our enjoyment of green spaces, and highlight that the amendment is not purely about benefiting urban dwellers? For example, the National Trust estimates that people across Britain are missing out on 500 million park visits a year because of poorly equipped facilities. Basic upgrades, from loos and income-generating cafés to play areas, can hugely help accessibility. Natural England has reported that insufficient footpaths in the presence of busy or dangerous roads can easily prevent access and deter the use of parks. So there are aspects of the amendment that would benefit both those living in the countryside and those living in the towns.

The Environment Secretary has always been supportive of many of these aims, and has said himself:

“Studies across the spectrum…remind us that it is in our best interests to look after nature. We know that a connection with nature contributes to wellbeing and improved health.”

So I hope that the Minister who is taking the Bill through the House—the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow), whose career in the House of Commons has been dedicated to the environment—will share those feelings by recognising the opportunity to do more, and find measures that can be used as targets to enhance people’s enjoyment of our green spaces, so that the “may” does become a “must” in time, and the Government do report on the improvement of people’s enjoyment.

Florence Eshalomi Portrait Florence Eshalomi (Vauxhall) (Lab/Co-op) [V]
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I support all the amendments that Labour has tabled today, but will concentrate my remarks on those specifically related to air quality.

My constituency of Vauxhall contains some of the busiest and most polluted roads in London and the country. Clapham Road and Brixton Road are both major routes for journeying in and out of south London, as well as rat runs for the everyday journeys to work, school and shops made by Vauxhall residents. However, in making these journeys, those residents are constantly exposed to the dangerous pollutants emanating from cars and other vehicles. Brixton Road has made national headlines for exceeding the annual legal air pollution limits a few days into the new year; like many of my constituents, I walk along that road on a daily basis.

We know that these toxic pollutants can have a devastating impact on our hearts and lungs. In particular, we know that PM2.5 particles are able to get deep into our lungs and bloodstream, where they can have a significant impact on our overall health, both in the short and long term. PM2.5 can be very bad for the health of our children. Even before this pandemic, children in Vauxhall were regularly exposed to toxic and illegal levels of air pollution, and were having to wear masks to school.

We all have a role to play in reducing this pollution: we have to make fewer journeys by car, drive less polluting vehicles, and walk and cycle when we are able to do so. However, the Government have to play their part, too. Reaching the World Health Organisation limit on PM2.5 pollution is an achievable target. That is why I will be supporting amendments 2 and 25, to ensure that these strict targets for air quality will be reached by 2030 at the latest. This will take us a step closer to making our air completely safe, both for today and for future generations.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, and I am very proud of the Government’s leadership on the environment. I commend the Minister for all the work she has done so far.

Madam Deputy Speaker, you would not think that my constituency of West Dorset has the worst place for air pollution in the entire country, but environmental issues affect us all. The village of Chideock, between Bridport and Lyme Regis, has the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide in the entire country from traffic on the A35. The pollution is more than double the Government limit. This issue is not new—it has been ongoing for years—but urgent cross-departmental action is required, and I would welcome the Minister’s assurance that she will look at this issue in Chideock as a matter of priority with the new powers the Bill will provide.

Plastic was once seen as the saviour of the rainforests, but it has become the scourge of the sea. Half of all plastics ever made have been produced in the past 15 years. Less than a third of plastic in Britain is recycled, and British supermarkets still produce 114 billion items of single-use plastic. Those supermarkets are devoid of real environmental responsibility for plastic packaging once it leaves their stores, which is contributing to an environmental disaster.

Greenpeace has just released its “Checking Out on Plastics III” report, which ranks the UK’s biggest supermarkets on their plastics credentials, and is recommended reading. A reader will find out, for example, that on a per market share basis, Tesco’s total plastic use has increased by 2.2% between 2017 and 2019. It is for this reason that I have tabled new clause 11, which would require the Government to set specific targets and reduce the volume of non-essential single-use plastic products sold by a designated date. This amendment is intended to work alongside the measures already set out in this Bill, to complement the Government’s ambitions to end this systemic over-production and over-consumption of polluting plastics.

I have greatly appreciated working with the West Dorset Environmental Alliance, a brilliant local group providing much-needed insights and momentum. I am also grateful for the support from the Conservative Environment Network and Friends of the Earth. This Bill is key to achieving a green future. It will unleash our nation’s potential to make our environment better for us all.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab) [V]
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I am pleased to support the amendments in the name of the shadow Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) and the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas).

The Government said they had a desire to have a “world-leading watchdog”. I wonder whether there was a misprint and it should have said a “world-leading lapdog”. Do they really mean it? I was on the hearing that met Dame Glenys Stacey, and she is a robust regulator, with a proven record of independence, and I trust her. The Secretary of State should set the criteria and the parameters that he expects the Office for Environmental Protection to work to, but he should then leave it to the regulator to regulate. Dame Glenys, I believe, has been appointed as the right person, so let her do the job without further interference. Let her also have the benefit of interim targets, because for someone regulating, targets can be really helpful. I listened to the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), and he is absolutely right. We need interim targets to be able to hold people to account, but also to be able to incentivise businesses and give them clarity about what they have to achieve.

When we are talking about enforcement, it is perhaps salutary if I remind colleagues of those who were there when, as chair of the then all-party group on biodiversity, I worked with Friends of the Earth to organise a photo opportunity for colleagues who came to support ensuring there was no relaxation of the ban on neonicotinoids. It was incredibly well supported: over 100 Members of Parliament came to support that campaign, and I have the photos to prove it. So for those Members who go into the Lobby tonight saying they will support the Government on lifting the ban, perhaps we, with Friends of the Earth, should dig out those photographs and start publishing them one by one to show just how much Members meant it when they had their photograph taken with that bee.

On deforestation, the Government are saying that there should be an imposition on companies to look at the legality of the sourcing of their materials, such as soy and timber. Legality is not enough. Yesterday I met a number of people representing the Brazilian interests as well as the commercial interests, and it is clear that what has happened already in Brazil is that the laws have been reduced because of the pressure. Companies must be asked to look at the sustainability of their supply chain, not just the legality of it.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD) [V]
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The Office for Environmental Protection concerns me greatly, because I think it is going to offer us very little protection. Its powers include the terrifying capacity to point out that the Government have failed to safeguard environmental protections or to maintain standards, but it cannot force the Government to comply, it cannot fine and it cannot prosecute. It can shame the Government, but if I could be so flippant, Madam Deputy Speaker, this appears to be a Government who know no shame, as demonstrated by the last-minute decision to delay this already criminally overdue Bill by maybe six months or more.

This is outrageous, but the Government will tough it out and will probably bear no consequences for doing so. However, there will be huge consequences for our environment, for biodiversity, for future generations and, indeed, for farmers and food producers. No formal regulation over these months and pretty much toothless enforcement thereafter will mean the steady erosion of animal welfare and environmental protections just, as it happens, as the Government are engaging in negotiating trade deals around the world. Some might consider this to be a rather convenient hiatus that will allow them to throw British farming under a bus once again. Farmers will lose the ability to look at our regulation as something that they can use to strengthen their hand when it comes to those negotiations. The undermining of our land management community—of our farmers—is a massive threat to our environment. Without them, we lose the practical capacity to deliver biodiversity gains.

That delay will also, of course, delay the setting of targets, which is key to the building blocks of the new environmental land management scheme, so it becomes less and less likely that the scheme will be ready and available to all farmers and land managers by 2028. Surely, therefore, if the Government are going to protect those farmers we depend on so much for biodiversity, they should finally accept that they must extend the basic payment scheme at 2020 levels—full levels—until the environmental land management scheme is available to all; otherwise, they will put out of business hundreds of those family farms that we rely on here in Cumbria and elsewhere, which are the very structure that has guaranteed Britain’s high standards in the past.

Finally, if the Government are going to encourage a new generation of land managers to deliver those biodiversity gains, may I make a plea for them to directly fund Newton Rigg College in Penrith?

Saqib Bhatti Portrait Saqib Bhatti (Meriden) (Con) [V]
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I will speak to the clauses relating to the Office for Environmental Protection. I had the privilege of being part of the Bill Committee that scrutinised this landmark legislation. I commend the Government and the Minister for taking a world-leading role through this legislation, not least by the introduction of the Office for Environmental Protection.

It is no secret that the defining challenge of our era is to provide an effective mechanism for the preservation of our natural environment. In the wake of covid-19, we have all seen the stories about nature hitting the reset button. Having meaningful, sustainable protection for the environment will require countries across the world to work together, but it will also require countries to show moral leadership on this issue.

That reminds me of a speech that Margaret Thatcher delivered to the United Nations General Assembly in 1989. The then Prime Minister spoke to the international community about the acute dangers of environmental destruction and about nations coming together in a global contribution to our planet’s health. We need a concerted effort by each member of the international community, and I believe that this Bill demonstrates to the world that Britain will be a world leader in protecting our environment. We really should be proud of that.

Our environment is not two-dimensional; it is a complex tapestry of biodiversity. Protecting it is not easy, nor is it an overnight job. That is why the Bill is essential. It offers the guarantee that our 25-year plan needs, our future generations demand and our environment requires. I am confident that the establishment of the OEP will deliver the necessary guarantees and safeguards for our natural environment. The OEP will be a watchdog with the ability to ensure that future Governments stay the course with regard to environmental sustainability and make a significant contribution to the environment that we all desire. The persistent monitoring of progress that Governments will be subjected to by the OEP will ensure that they are held to account and do not renege on our national pledge to the environment.

I also welcome the opportunity for local people to challenge the decisions made by their local authorities. Our communities care about the environment. By allowing people this opportunity to challenge local authorities, we recognise the pride that people have in the environment. I am keen for our communities to be given powers to hold public bodies to account through the OEP. If we are to meaningfully protect our environment, our communities will be essential. The environmental activism that I have seen in my constituency, from schoolchildren to volunteer groups and faith communities, has been nothing short of inspirational. In the year that we take up the presidency of COP26, I also see a massive opportunity to engage our faith communities in building a narrative and a case for moral leadership in protecting our environment.

The global community shares in the inheritance of the health of our world and its aesthetic, but it also shares in the immediate danger of climate destruction. I have no doubt that the OEP will be a world-leading organisation, setting the UK at the forefront of environmental protections. If we are to lead, the best way to do so must be by example, and through this legislation and the OEP, I believe we will be exemplary.

Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab) [V]
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The Environment Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation that this place is currently scrutinising. That is not hyperbole; the evidence of the climate crisis and the crisis in the state of nature, where the survival of so many species, including our own, is under threat, is irrefutable—although I know some would like it to be refutable.

I was fortunate to be an observer of the first national citizens’ assembly looking at climate change last year. People from all parts of the country, from all backgrounds, with wide-ranging opinions, were randomly selected to reach a consensus about action to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. During one session I attended, the fabulous David Attenborough came along to give us the benefit of his extensive experience, having seen the devastation being wrought on our planet, including here in the UK. It left a profound impact on me, and I hope that citizens’ assemblies will be used at both the national and local level to engage with our communities to build consensus on many other important issues.

It is clear from the many constituents who have contacted me, including many school students from across Oldham and Saddleworth, how concerned they are about the state of the environment and the planet we temporarily inhabit. They want an environment legacy that is fit for not just them, but their children and their children’s children. The environment is another issue of intergenerational inequality. I speak in support of the amendments and new clauses in this group to which I have added my name. First, I support the amendments calling for the Bill to include an environmental objective to achieve and maintain biodiversity, support for human health and wellbeing, and the sustainable use of resources. That provides an overarching focus for the Bill, which I hope the Government will support.

Secondly, the Bill needs to include governance measures to ensure that at least World Health Organisation guidelines on air quality and particulates of 2.5 microns or less are monitored and enforced. Anyone who has followed the campaign of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah’s family following nine-year-old Ella’s death from a fatal asthma attack, contributed to by the poor air quality in London, will recall the evidence to the recent inquest that pointed to her death acting as a warning of the risk of poor air quality to the health of other Londoners. In Ella’s memory, we must act.

Thirdly, the Bill must include the opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny where the Government seek exemptions on the use of pesticides such as neonicotinoids and others banned under EU law. We must question the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on his recent decision to authorise the use of neonicotinoids in place of non-chemical alternatives for controlling the yellow beet virus.

Finally, I support the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) on the state of nature report. Only by committing to a binding target to halt and begin to reverse the decline of the state of nature at home, showing the domestic leadership that is needed, can the Government have any credibility in trying to secure support for a global deal—

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. I thank the hon. Lady for her speech, but I am afraid we must move on now to Sally-Ann Hart.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con) [V]
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This Environment Bill is major legislation and a mark of this Government’s commitment to our environment and combating climate change. As the Prime Minister said, it is

“a lodestar by which we will guide our country towards a cleaner, and greener future.”

This Bill is the flagship of a wider package of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs legislation, including the Agriculture Act 2020 and the Fisheries Act 2020, which seeks to deliver on the Government’s pledge to leave the environment in a better state than they inherited it in.

New clause 11, on environmental targets on plastic pollution, has been tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder), and I wish to focus my comments on it today. Plastic pollutes land and oceans, and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its life cycle, from its production to its refining and the way it is managed as a waste product. The scourge of plastic waste—the litter we see in our oceans, and on our beaches, streets, pavements and roadsides—takes hundreds of years to decompose, contaminating our soil and water. The toxic chemicals used to manufacture plastic get transferred to animal tissue and eventually enter the human food chain, risking our health.

In my constituency of beautiful Hastings and Rye, we have a number of stunning beaches, at Camber, Winchelsea, Pett and Hastings. Single-use plastic such as straws, cups, bottles and bags, blights all parts of our environment. Litter picking groups such as Hastings Beach Clean, Tidy Up St Leonards and Rye Harbour Beach Clean pick up bag-loads of plastic every time they go out. However, there is no doubt that this Government have taken the plastic challenge seriously. In 2018, they published a resources and waste strategy, and they have taken measures such as banning plastic straws and microbeads. They are leading global efforts to tackle ocean pollution, including by launching the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance alongside Vanuatu. The requirement for large retailers to charge 5p for single-use plastic carriers bags has seen plastic bag sales drop 90% since its introduction.

The Bill includes a range of measures to tackle plastic use and disposal, such as new charges on single-use plastic and a new deposit return scheme, which should incentivise consumers to choose more sustainable products over plastic ones. The amendment seeks to work with the grain of the measures already set out in the Bill to end the systemic over-production and consumption of polluting plastics and non-essential single-use items. However, it would also require the Government to set targets to reduce plastic pollution and the volume of non-essential single-use plastic products sold by a designated date. For those reasons, I support the amendment.

Barbara Keeley Portrait Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab) [V]
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I speak in support of amendments 21 and 28, tabled by the hon. Members for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) and for Gloucester (Richard Graham). I thank the Ramblers and other campaign groups that are supporting the amendments and campaigning to promote public access to nature.

The amendments have a simple purpose: to extend the Bill from just protecting nature to ensuring that we can all access nature. The lockdowns and restrictions of the past year have shown us how important it is for people to have access to high-quality outside space. Although we have all been staying at home to protect the NHS, getting out for regular exercise, whether walking, cycling or running, has been vital to protecting people’s mental health.

The use of outside space is to be encouraged after the pandemic, not written off as a temporary phase, but that will mean protecting and expanding green spaces in our cities and supporting and encouraging people to get out into the countryside. As it stands, the Bill allows the Government to set targets for promoting access to nature, which is welcome, but I am concerned that that may end up as a low priority, and we should not allow that to happen.

The amendments would guarantee that future Governments had to take action to protect our access to nature. They would ensure that nature was available to more people, not just those who can afford to access it. We need that to change, because there are already serious inequalities in access to open spaces. Only 57% of adults in the UK live within a five-minute walk of green space, whether a park, field or canal path, but even that disappointing headline figure hides significant further inequalities.

Only two in five people from black and other minority ethnic communities say that they can walk to a green space within five minutes. Adults with a household income below £15,000 are twice as likely to say that they cannot access green space as those with a household income of £70,000. One in four people in my local area of Salford is in that first income band. People in the most deprived areas of England tend to have the poorest health and significantly less green space than those in wealthier areas. We need to do much more to ensure that access to nature is equitable for everyone.

Can the Minister confirm that the Government will set targets for public access to nature, and that they will include widening access to ensure that more people are able to enjoy it? Such targets are only the first step. We will also need concerted action, such as subsidies to farmers to promote access over their land, and the promotion of public transport links from inner-city areas to green, open spaces and the countryside. Without such action and clear targets to prompt it, there remains a danger that access to nature will continue to be denied to many people, so I urge the Government to accept the amendments.

Ben Everitt Portrait Ben Everitt (Milton Keynes North) (Con)
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Before the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi) gave her contribution over video link, I thought I would be the only Member to speak without tabling a new clause or amendment. The truth is that I actually quite like this Bill—it is a good Bill. It feels like we are having a good day at the office. That does not mean that we should not be debating it, of course, and that is what I am here to do.

Chiefly, I am disappointed by the delay. Climate change is obviously the biggest, most strategic threat that we face as a country and a planet. We have the tactical immediate threat of coronavirus, of course. It is unfortunate, but understandable, that the legislative timetable split. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne), I remain confident that the Bill will return in the next Session. I seek assurances from the Minister that my colleagues still have that ambition and enthusiasm to make sure that these changes become law.

I will talk briefly about new clause 1, give a quick shout out to Government amendment 31, and if there is time I will add some more stuff at the end. What I want to say is that the scale of ambition we have in Government is phenomenal. It is amazing. It is almost too much. When I rose to speak on the Agriculture Bill, I said that our farmers are the custodians of the countryside, but of course that applies to all of us. We are the custodians of our environment. This Bill works hand in hand with the Agriculture Act 2020. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) described, it also works hand in hand with the White Paper on housing. All of that put together puts an enormous burden on our public sector, local and national. We are asking our civil servants, our professionals, to do lots of new things all at once. We need to be very careful that we do not overload and try to do too much. That said, ambition is not a crime and we should be ambitious, because the world is watching us. As we approach COP26, this legislation shows how ambitious we are and how we can match that ambition with action.

A number of Members noted that the new regulator might seem toothless and that the targets might need a bit more oomph. I am sort of sympathetic to that, but what we have got is a new environmental improvement plan placed on a statutory footing by what we are doing today. We are literally changing the law to make the environment better. This is a good day at the office.

Alex Sobel Portrait Alex Sobel (Leeds North West) (Lab/Co-op)
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The world has changed immeasurably in the year since the Bill’s First Reading. In the last 12 months covid-19 has devastated lives, torn through communities and paralysed economies across the globe. The pandemic has taken so much: lives, of course, but also hugs, handshakes, kisses, birthdays, Christmas and Eid. It has given, too: mental health issues, domestic violence and poverty. However, during the height of the pandemic the lockdown also gave us much lower emissions and much better air quality. Anecdotal evidence suggests, somewhat ironically, that those who suffer from certain respiratory illnesses fared much better during the first lockdown. That gives us a brief window into a post-pandemic future if we manage to take a hold of it. We need to create long-term structural change, underpinned by robust legislation.

In my city of Leeds, a person is 20 times more likely to die from air pollution than in a car accident—20 times. According to the Royal College of Physicians, across the UK, air pollution is responsible for 40,000 early deaths, at an economic cost of £20 billion a year. For that reason, I believe it is my moral duty to support amendment 25 to ensure that the particulate matter target for air quality is at least as strict as the WHO guidelines. That is a call I made when we introduced the charging clean air zone in Leeds, a commitment the Government have abandoned. We need to pass the amendment and reintroduce the clean air zone.

The State of Nature report says that UK species diversity is in freefall, with 15% of UK species at risk of becoming extinct. Some our most-loved animals, including Scottish wild cats, red squirrels and water voles, are at risk. I am the parliamentary species champion for the white-clawed crayfish. New clause 5 would give all those species a much better chance of survival. We also have bee-harming neonicotinoids. The UK Government recently granted emergency authorisation for sugar beet seeds to be treated by neonicotinoids. That is banned under EU law and we cannot allow it to come in through the back door, so we need to pass amendment 39.

Finally, on the OEP, its progress has been followed by the Environmental Audit Committee for three years. It is supposedly independent, but its budget, board and chair are set by the Government. Only recently, the Secretary of State said: “We will be able to guide the OEP.” It is worth noting that the Government have no comparable power in relation to any existing enforcement bodies. We therefore need to pass amendment 23 to bring a semblance of independence back to this important regulatory body, and ensure that we move forward and do not have another pause in this legislation.

Bob Seely Portrait Bob Seely (Isle of Wight) (Con) [V]
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I am speaking from the Isle of Wight, where, in addition to being a UNESCO biosphere, we hope in the next couple of years to become the UK’s first island park, if the Government intend to bring forward the new protected landscapes Bill, as I clearly I hope they do.

I support this Bill very much—I think it is a great Bill—but I wish to speak in favour of new clauses 14 and 15 to argue the case for minimising the impact of housing on the environment. It is great that the Government want to design better, and frankly we need better design in this country, but a well-designed low-density greenfield housing estate is still a low-density greenfield housing estate, and these housing estates are, by nature, unsustainable. New clause 14 would allow for a handbrake to stop environmentally damaging housing, because it would, by law, prioritise carbon-efficient housing and carbon-efficient locations.

House building, along with everything else that we do, needs to align with the UK’s binding obligations in the Paris climate accords and carbon-efficient obligations, as well as the Government’s justified world-leading commitment to net zero by 2050. To do that, we need carbon-efficient housing solutions, and that implies a focus on cities as opposed to suburban and rural development. If we do not get that carbon-efficient housing in this Bill, as mandated by this new clause, then can we look at it for the housing Bill?

For me, this also means that we need to do more to incentivise brownfield development in not only suburban but rural areas. Very often brownfield sites are too small to be used efficiently under the current financial regime, and it is much cheaper to build inefficiently on greenfield sites. Greenfield sites, as well as being the most carbon-intensive because we are building detached houses, are also dependent on car use outside existing communities, which means dependence not only on carbon-emitting cars but on people having to travel to get to amenities rather than those amenities being built near them. Research provided by the House of Commons Library shows that homes built in urban areas are significantly less carbon-emitting than those built in suburban and rural areas.

I welcome this Bill, but can we please look at the legal requirement for the most carbon-efficient housing in the most carbon-efficient locations, not only for our climate change commitments but for quality of life in cities, in suburbs and in rural areas?

Ben Lake Portrait Ben Lake (Ceredigion) (PC)
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Like other Members, I am disappointed that the Government have failed to make significant progress with this Bill, especially given the urgent need to act to address not only the causes of climate change but biodiversity loss. In such an important year for climate change mitigation and adaptation, I hope that the Government will make a meaningful effort to get the Bill on to the statute book as soon as possible in the next Session.

It is a pleasure to speak to several amendments, including new clause 9, which draws attention to our international commitments and the importance of action to protect our natural environment both here at home and abroad. In particular, I hope that the new clause will draw further attention to the plight of our forests—the lungs of our world and vital habitats for species great and small—in addition to the need for measures to discourage trade in products of deforestation abroad.

I hope that new clause 9 will also draw attention to an equally pertinent issue: the offshoring of our emissions and associated resource consumption. WWF believes that as much as 46% of the UK’s carbon footprint is not currently accounted for by national reporting or included in the UK’s net zero target. This simply must be addressed if we are serious about our role in tackling climate change.

The Bill also focuses minds on the constraints imposed by the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 on action to protect our natural world across the four nations of the UK. This is reflected in amendment 40 and new clause 1, both of which Plaid Cymru will be supporting.

Wales is rightfully proud of its status as a world leader in recycling and a nation where sustainable development is a constitutional duty, yet one of the many reasons why the Senedd withheld consent from the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 and why the Welsh Government are now taking legal action against the UK Government is the issue of plastic pollution, as raised by the Senedd Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee. Wales would be legally prohibited from taking action to restrict the use of single-use plastic under the Act’s non-discrimination clauses. These clauses not only make the Bill’s lack of ambition even more egregious, but draw attention to how the Government are hindering environmental action by working against, rather than with, the devolved nations and their record of action in this field.

We have a duty to do all we can to protect our natural world for present and future generations. We cannot afford to ignore this most profound duty, so I hope the Government will actively listen and reflect on the constructive debate we have had here today.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con) [V]
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Listening to the contributions from colleagues on both sides of the House on this Bill today has been a real pleasure; it is clear that there is widespread support for its ambitions and I share that. It has also been a pleasure to listen to my constituents over the past 12 months —to the schoolchildren, the farmers, the businesses and most of all to Laurinda and The Time is Now group—because it is clear that out in the country the ambitions that the Government have set in this Bill are equally shared and, as many have said, we are eager to see this Bill get on the statute book.

I want to focus on issues of biodiversity and housing and draw the Minister’s attention to the new clauses in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers). In North East Bedfordshire we look to have one of the fastest rates of growth in housing development, and it is crucially important that whatever the level of housing—and of course those numbers need to come down—that housing development takes into account the maintenance, encouragement and resilience of the biodiversity in our local communities. I urge the Minister to listen to representations from the CPRE and also from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, based in my constituency, about the importance of biodiversity being incorporated in legislation when it comes to the expansion of housing developments and new developments across the country.

Finally, on the Minister and her team, it is clear that these ambitions, coming from all directions, at some point have to be corralled into a piece of legislation for the whole, and there are lots of tensions between what people want to achieve, but, as she and her colleagues will know, in addition to setting targets we must make sure that we maintain support and buy-in from the various constituents who are affected by those targets. I wish her all the best in bringing forward this Bill and give it my strong support today.

Jessica Morden Portrait Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab) [V]
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I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in this debate. As my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) on the Opposition Front Bench said, the delay in the Bill’s progress sends a terrible message in view of the climate emergency. Now that we have left the EU, it is vital that we maintain the highest environmental standards, but this Bill replaces the EU’s comprehensive environmental protections with targets that the Secretary of State has near discretion to change at any time. That is why the amendments in this group are so important in seeking to maintain the independence of the OEP, placing duties on public authorities to act in accordance with key environmental principles, and enhancing protections for biodiversity. That is so important and is why we on these Benches support these amendments.

Many constituents have been in touch about amendment 39 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, which seeks greater transparency in decisions on banned bee-and-other-species-killing pesticides. I want to say a few words in support, not least because the Welsh Government have led the way through their initiatives to make Wales a pollinator-friendly nation, and Newport City Council has also taken up the baton: we are a bee-friendly city. It is to be hoped that bee-friendly initiatives are having an effect, with a population of small scabious bees found in St Julian’s and the Gwent levels being home to the UK’s rarest bumblebee, the shrill carder bee. The Gwent Wildlife Trust and the RSPB are doing fantastic work locally. We know that bees’ importance to the ecosystem is towering. Some 90% of the world’s flowering plant species are dependent on insect pollination, and many species are dependent on bees because their food sources rely on pollination. Tragically, we know that bees are in decline. Reasons for the decline are various, but also include bee-killing insecticides, which were rightly banned across the EU in 2018. Although Ministers previously said that they would keep restrictions on pesticides in place, less than three years on, we now hear that they will allow them to treat sugar beet. This not only puts pollinator populations at risk, but sets a precedent that Ministers can strike out other hard-won protections. We must not allow that to happen.

Robbie Moore Portrait Robbie Moore (Keighley) (Con)
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It is a real privilege to be called to speak in this debate. Improving the environment is a topic that I am incredibly passionate about, and I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

I start by saying that it has been great to serve on the Bill Committee for this piece of legislation. There is so much that is good in this Bill and I give particular thanks to the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) for her energy and enthusiasm in driving this Bill forward.

Protecting the environment and our natural environment is, without doubt, one of the greatest gifts that we can pass on to the next generation, and protecting the environment is something that is exceptionally close to my heart, and, of course, to many of my constituents. I want to focus my comments in this part of today’s debate on governance. This Bill is of crucial importance to providing a legal framework for our environmental governance for a post-Brexit global Britain. As it stands right now, our environmental law and policies are mostly driven by the European Union, but I know that, when it comes to the environment, the Government are keen to go further, and go beyond the baseline standards that we adopted while we were within the European Union.

All policy should be long term, but it is particularly important that environmental policy goes above and beyond, which is why I welcome the fact that the Environment Bill will allow the setting of new, long-term, legally binding and joined-up targets, focusing on air quality, biodiversity, water, waste reduction and resource efficiency. The Office for Environmental Protection will go a long way to deterring the breaches of environmental law. For far too long, many people have felt that breaches of environmental law in Britain have gone unchecked—it is almost as if they see those breaches as second or third-tier offences—and that enforcement power could be better spent elsewhere. Of course, that is wrong, which is why I am so pleased that the Office for Environmental Protection will be given the flexibility to go a long way to help change that. Damaging the environment damages us all, and I therefore stress to the Minister that, on this point, it is vital that the OEP is fully independent and properly funded to have teeth and weight to take action, and that it is allowed to take the enforcement action that it deems necessary.

In conclusion, there is always much more that we can do, and I urge the Government to push this piece of legislation forward at pace. We all have a duty to leave the environment in a cleaner, greener state than we found it, and this Bill helps to achieve that.

Rebecca Long Bailey Portrait Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab) [V]
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Despite the infectious enthusiasm of the Minister, I have to say that, sadly, the deficiencies of the Bill bolster my scepticism about the Prime Minister’s supposedly Damascene conversion to eco-warrior from someone who, in only 2015, claimed that the science surrounding warming temperatures was “without foundation”. But if his Government want to prove me wrong, they certainly have the chance to do so today. First, they could support new clause 9, which would provide that anyone with duties under the Bill must comply with an environmental objective to achieve and maintain: biodiversity; support for human health and wellbeing; and sustainable use of resources. The new clause includes specified environmental commitments that have been made by the Government including in the UN Leaders’ Pledge for Nature of September 2020 and under the Climate Change Act 2008.

Secondly, the Government should support amendments 25 and 2, whose principles are supported by the British Lung Foundation. These amendments set parameters on the face of the Bill to ensure that the PM2.5 target for air quality will be at least as strict as the 2005 World Health Organisation guidelines, with an attainment deadline of 2030 at the latest. As it stands, the Bill does not set a minimum level of ambition for the achievement of this target. I stress to the Minister the importance of these amendments to my constituents. A 2018 report showed that Salford and Manchester were in breach of these WHO guidelines, and air pollution, primarily caused by vehicles, is said to contribute to at least 1,200 deaths a year across Greater Manchester.

Finally, the Government should support amendment 39. There is huge concern about the decision to allow a derogation regarding the use of certain neonicotinoids. The decision goes against all commitments that the Government made to help nature, including an explicit pledge to keep pesticide restrictions after Brexit. Without the scrutiny that amendment 39 would provide, there is a significant risk that the emergency authorisation of such pesticides could sadly become a common occurrence.

There are so many additional amendments in this section that have been eloquently articulated by Members today, but it is clear that we are in a climate and ecological emergency, and that we need this Environment Bill to create the highest of environmental standards. Without the changes outlined, it simply does not do that; it is just greenwash.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) [V]
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This is a good and welcome Bill. I support it, but I want it to go further, which is why I have put my name to amendment 2, which was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish). One area in particular in which we should go further, and which is of concern to my constituents, is in relation to PM2.5 particulate pollution, which is perhaps the most dangerous type of pollution to human health. Its impact on things such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary heart disease, stroke and lung cancer are well documented.

I recognise that the Bill as it stands commits to bringing a new target for PM2.5 before Parliament by October 2022. It is what Ministers have always said in previous debates and it is good, but we need to go further. The Bill does not, for example, commit to reaching World Health Organisation guidelines and does not give a timescale for adoption, even though Ministers have said that that is their ambition.

As I understand it—it has been said in the House previously—past DEFRA studies have shown that we can achieve the WHO standard of 10 micrograms per cubic metre by 2030. That would be a reasonable timeframe, and, if it can be done, there is no reason why we should not put it into the Bill. It is an important issue, even in a constituency such as mine—a comparatively leafy London suburb, which has better scores on pollution than many parts of London, but is still above the UK average in a number of respects—and it is a matter of real concern for my constituents. Putting that commitment, which we want to achieve anyway, on the face of the Bill would show willing on our part towards our own citizens. It is also worth saying that it would increase our influence on these matters abroad, because, at the end of the day, these matters have to be tackled internationally.

There is a great deal of focus on the integrated review that is under way, and many countries have punched above their weight by taking a lead on this issue. New Zealand is a great example, as are many of the Scandinavian countries. If we were to set out our stall and commit ourselves to tackling PM2.5 pollution in this way on the face of the Bill, that would be a really positive message for global Britain, particularly in the run-up to COP26 in November. When the Minister responds to the debate, I hope that she will indicate that the Government want to move forward positively and vigorously on this, and I suggest that that is a way they can do so.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab) [V]
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A number of my constituents have contacted me to stress that the Office for Environmental Protection should be an independent and powerful body capable of ensuring that the Government uphold environmental laws on everything from plastic pollution to air quality. They are concerned about clause 24 of the Bill and have pointed out that, if the Government have the power to tell the Office for Environmental Protection how to do its job, the office cannot be truly effective; I very much share their concerns. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has remarked that it is

“essential that every step is taken to ensure the Office for Environmental Protection is as independent from the Government as possible, to give the public confidence that the Government will be properly held to account on its duty to protect the environment.”

I therefore support amendment 23, which would delete clause 24.

The quality of the air we breathe is vital to our wellbeing. One of my constituents wrote to me last week to say that air pollution is a daily issue for her and others like her suffering with lung conditions. She told me how, on days when air pollution is high, her symptoms can flare up so badly that she is unable to leave her home. The Government have already committed to adopting a new binding target for PM2.5 through the Bill. However, as Friends of the Earth has pointed out, the Bill does not set a minimum level of ambition or a deadline for its achievements. Amendment 25 is intended to set parameters on the face of the Bill to ensure that the PM2.5 target for air quality will be at least as strict as the 2005 World Health Organisation guideline of below 10 micrograms per cubic metre, with an attainment deadline of 2030 at the latest.

I now turn to the matter of bees. I pay tribute to the work of Flourish at Ford Way in Upton for the work it does in keeping hives and producing excellent honey. More than 50,000 people have signed The Wildlife Trusts’ petition urging the Prime Minister to overturn the Environment Secretary’s recent authorisation of the emergency use of a bee-killing pesticide for farmers to use on sugar beet crops in England. That shows the real strength of public feeling on this issue.

Amendment 39 would require Ministers to allow parliamentary scrutiny of exemptions granted to allow plant protection products banned under retained EU law, such as neonicotinoid pesticides, where they are likely to impact bees and other species covered by an environmental improvement plan. In conclusion, I urge Members to back these key amendments to ensure the independence of the Office for Environmental Protection, improve air quality and protect bees.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab) [V]
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I am glad that this Bill has finally returned to the Commons after months of delay. It has been a frustratingly long time since I took part in prelegislative scrutiny as a member of the Environmental Audit Committee and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, and it is nearly a year since I attended the first meeting of the Public Bill Committee. We are now told that we need to wait months more for the second day of Report stage and for the Bill to become law. The Bill should have been in place before the end of transition. Can we even be sure now that it will be in place before COP26? There is absolutely no excuse for the Government’s laxity, and one can only attribute it to a lack of ambition and urgency in tackling the nature and climate emergencies.

Leaving the EU without a fully functioning, properly resourced and independent Office for Environmental Protection that can take public authorities to court over the most serious breaches of environmental law leaves a regulatory gap, which so many of us warned against. We were promised that the Office for Environmental Protection would be located in Bristol, with the creation of 120 jobs. That was publicly reported, and I was told it by Ministers on more than one occasion, yet the Minister has today announced without a hint of shame—in fact, with more than a hint of smugness—that the OEP will be based in Worcester. She can rest assured that I will be seeking an explanation from her as to why this hugely disappointing and, given Bristol’s record, inexplicable decision was made.

This Bill is not all it could be and needs to be strengthened. Labour’s new clause 9 would place firm duties on officials to achieve and maintain biodiversity, human health and sustainable use of resources. New clause 1 would put a duty on public officials to act in accordance with environmental principles. Again, we were repeatedly told during prelegislative scrutiny that a policy statement on environmental principles would be published imminently, so where is it, or was that just another ploy to stave off awkward questioning at the time?

New clause 5 would set the equivalent of the net zero target for tackling the decline in nature by 2030, to begin to reverse the devastating losses we have seen in recent decades. We need such protections in law because, as we have seen repeatedly, the Government’s actions do not always match their words. For example, amendment 39, which would allow parliamentary scrutiny of the use of harmful pesticides such as bee-killing neonicotinoids, was tabled in response to the Government’s emergency authorisation of the use of those pesticides. Labour will always back good British farming practices and farmers but, faced with a devastating decline in biodiversity and our bee populations, we cannot uncritically give the green light, without scrutiny, to the use of harmful pesticides.

To conclude, the Bill needs to be better, the OEP needs to be stronger, and we need proper environmental governance in place without further delay. The natural world is in crisis and we must do all we can to address that, not just the bare minimum.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab) [V]
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Last week, my constituents were given a salutary reminder of the very real threat that we face from the climate and ecological emergency that Parliament declared just 18 months ago: we faced the worst floods—potentially—in living memory, with water levels more than 1 metre higher than ever previously recorded. We were saved because the River Alt burst its banks and demolished an embankment over a 30-mile stretch, bursting into floodplain rather than flooding 500 or so properties in Maghull in my constituency. That is one reason why new clause 9 is so important: it would mean that anyone with duties under the Bill must comply with environmental objectives. We were lucky with the flooding last week but we may not be next time. That is one good example.

The red squirrels in Formby in my constituency, which are looked after by the National Trust, desperately need the intervention of new clause 5, tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn). Local action to support them is no substitute for wider action on habitat and species, so that new clause is an important and necessary step.

Let me turn to air quality and the importance of the amendments on that subject. The Government want to build an access road to the port of Liverpool. The people who live near the port of Liverpool have a life expectancy that is among the lowest in the country, living 10 years fewer than those just 2 miles away. We heard earlier from Members that 40,000 people a year die because of poor air quality, so why do we not have a system in government in which everybody, including the Department for Transport, plays their part? We should not be building new roads to improve transport in isolation, but should take account of air quality and the need to protect people, as well as the effect on the climate. It should be a rail link rather than a road. That is the third element in my constituency that brings to life what the Bill means in practice.

All three of those elements, in common, indicate why the Office for Environmental Protection must have teeth to be able to intervene across Government. It cannot be that so-called guidance from the Secretary of State can intervene, interfere and dilute the OEP’s effectiveness. So much work is needed on these policy areas—I gave three examples just from my constituency, and there are so many more. We must pass the amendments I have mentioned, the legislation must go on to the statute book quickly, and for this country, my constituents and the world, we must have the intervention now.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon) (Lab)
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I am pleased to be able to speak to the Bill on Report. My constituency is a green and pleasant place, by and large, but we have seen our fair share of environmental damage and change, and we still endure landfill sites and the scars of our industrial heritage. Environmental issues of all kinds are hugely important to my constituents, including the schoolchildren I speak to, such as those at Birtley East Primary School, who told me that they had written to the Prime Minister, as they had to me, to persuade us that we must protect the environment for their sake.

I wish to comment on the group of amendments on oversight and environmental protection. The Bill is welcome, but we have to take the opportunity to make sure that it really hits the spot—that it has the strength to protect our environment locally and nationally and also contributes to environmental protection internationally and globally. From talking to many environmental organisations, it is clear to me that there is widespread agreement that we need to build stronger measures into the Bill. We need targets and we need to build in independence for the Office for Environmental Protection. Most of all, we need to see the Bill become law. It is sad that there is a delay, but we must see this Bill become law urgently, and certainly before COP26 in Glasgow.

I would like to speak briefly about new clause 9. This House has already declared a climate emergency, so it is right that the Bill really tackles that emergency in a consistent and ambitious way. New clause 9, as we have heard from previous speakers, provides that anyone with duties under the Bill must comply with an overarching environmental objective.

On amendment 23, we have already mentioned that the Office for Environmental Protection needs to be independent of Government. As others have said, clause 24, which was added by the Government in Committee, allows the Secretary of State to provide guidance. We really need that independence, so I hope the amendment will be supported.

On amendment 39, I am sure that most hon. Members, like me, have been flooded with representations on the granting of the licence to use neonicotinoids. It is right that we have proper scrutiny when such licences are granted. In fact, we should not be granting them at all. There are difficult decisions to be made on environmental issues, and we really need to step up and try to make them.

Finally, on amendment 25 on air quality, it is becoming more and more important that our air quality is a health and environmental issue, so I support this amendment. There is so much more that I would like to say on different parts of the Bill, but I do not have time today. I hope this debate today will help us to make those tough decisions.

Stephen Farry Portrait Stephen Farry (North Down) (Alliance) [V]
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I share with many others the frustration at the delay of this Bill, which started out long before other pieces of legislation, including some incredibly consequential Bills on Brexit that were rammed through with minimal scrutiny. I want to focus in particular on Government amendment 20 and, briefly, new clause 17, and I offer my support for other progressive amendments.

By way of context, arising from the protocol there is a greater ongoing requirement for Northern Ireland to remain aligned to the European Union. This is a good thing. However, governance needs to be considered separately from policy. It should go without saying that independence and an ability to prosecute effectively are critical to the Office for Environmental Protection, but that is not the case.

This Bill grants the Secretary of State in England and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland the power to issue guidance to the OEP on certain matters that must be included in the OEP’s enforcement policy. The Government claim that the new power does not grant the Secretary of State or DAERA any ability to intervene in decision making about civic or individual cases, and that the OEP does not have to act strictly in accordance with the guidance where it has clear reasons not to do so.

While technically correct, it is clear, especially in the context of all the other Government amendments, that the new power will have the effect of allocating Ministers a central role in shaping the basic principles of the watchdog and a severely constraining effect on the OEP’s ability to act independently. This power to provide guidance therefore inverts the intended hierarchy, in which the OEP oversees Ministers, in that it gives Ministers the role of overseeing the OEP. I do not believe that this role has been given sufficient scrutiny in Northern Ireland with respect to the role of DAERA.

I also want to stress that the Office for Environmental Protection is not the summit of environmental governance in Northern Ireland. The New Decade, New Approach agreement, which restored the Northern Ireland Executive this time last year, contained a commitment to an independent environmental protection agency. This will be different in its scope and role from the OEP, and the OEP should not be used as an excuse for not proceeding with an EPA.

Finally, I want to speak very briefly in support of new clause 17. The pandemic has laid bare the need for a new outlook on our economy and wider society. We need to look, therefore, at a new, more holistic and inclusive economic model, including more sophisticated economic objectives and indicators such as environmental regeneration, renewable energy and the UK’s impact overseas, alongside health, incomes, security, equality, inclusion, affordable housing and the wellbeing of future generations.

Richard Thomson Portrait Richard Thomson (Gordon) (SNP) [V]
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For all that hon. Members have said that this is a good and necessary Bill, devolution means that it will not have a huge impact on my constituents. The aspects of it that will have an impact have received legislative consent from the Scottish Parliament, which was an important step. More widely, legislative consent needs to be respected by the UK Government more often that just when it happens to suit them.

Amendments 43 and 44, in the names of my SNP and Plaid Cymru colleagues, will not be voted on, but the importance of the principles behind them remains. They would remove the exemptions for armed forces, defence and national security policy from the requirement to have due regard to the policy statement on environmental principles and environmental law. They would also remove the exemptions for tax, spending and the allocation of resources.

We know of the long-term problems caused by munitions dumped at Beaufort’s Dyke between Scotland and Northern Ireland, the impact that military research can have on the environment, the radioactivity on beaches in Fife and the long-term problems left by the decommissioning of nuclear-powered submarines. They have all left us with a literally toxic environmental legacy. Like decisions about taxation, spending and allocating resources, decisions about those matters cannot be divorced from their environmental impact, and the Government cannot be exempted from their wider responsibilities in those regards. This is not about subordinating security or decisions about the economy to the needs of the environment or vice versa; it is about ensuring that the wider policy considerations and responsibilities for the environment are given due regard at all times in the decision-making process.

It is important to recognise that the EU has some of the strongest environmental targets, laws and protections in the world, and our departure has put them under threat. As an EU member, the UK was forced to match those standards. Unlike the Scottish Parliament’s EU continuity Bill, this Bill sadly does not include any non-regression clauses in that regard. The promises of non-regression rely on the intent of this and future Governments to stand by that pledge. It would give me and a great many others much greater assurance about the Government’s good intentions if they were to allow the insertion of a non-regression principle into the Bill as it progresses through the other place.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab) [V]
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In the winter of 2019-20, the people of Hull planted 1,300 alder buckthorn trees as part of the butterfly city community initiative. That was done with Hull City Council, local primary schools and community orchard and garden groups across the city. The principal aim was to benefit the brimstone butterfly, as the leaves are food for it, but it was also important to start a conversation about biodiversity.

The planting of the trees was not just about biodiversity; it was also to help to clean our air. Improving the quality of the air we breathe is a priority for Hull. In 2017, the last year for which records are available, Centre for Cities analysis estimated that more than 1,500 deaths in Hull—one in 20—were due to air pollution, making it the most badly affected place in Yorkshire. The major disease-causing component of air pollution is known as fine particulate matter or PM2.5. It can be any solid or liquid particles that are smaller than 2.5 micrometres suspended in the air. The tiny size of the particles makes that form of pollution effectively invisible to the human eye. It is not smog or the haze that we normally associate with pollution, it can even be present on what appears to be a clear and sunny day.

There is no effective defence—no mitigation—if we live in an area of high levels. The particles settle in our airways and are small enough to enter our bloodstream. A study by King’s College London of people living within 50 metres of a major road showed that roadside air pollution can stunt children’s lung growth, make asthmatic children more likely to cough and raise people’s risk of a heart attack, stroke, heart disease and lung cancer. Studies from around the world have linked PM2.5 to low birth rates, diabetes and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Air pollution has a cost not just in terms of health and quality of life, but an estimated financial cost of up to £20 billion a year. Based on 2018 data, it is estimated that more than 22 million people in the UK live in areas with levels of PM2.5 above those recommended by the World Health Organisation, yet those deadly levels of air pollution are entirely legal. The Government are well aware of the problems, the costs and the number of deaths. The 2019 air quality strategy clearly states:

“Air quality is the largest environmental health risk in the UK.”

The Labour party wants this country to be the best to grow up in and the best to grow old in, and we want that for everyone, regardless of where they happen to live. That is why we are calling for the adoption into law of the World Health Organisation air quality standards. I urge the Government to take action today, clean up the air and accept our amendment.

Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD) [V]
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This Bill has had an exceptionally long gestation, and it is a matter of great regret to me and to my party that, unfortunately, we have learned today that it is to be delayed even further. This should be an area where there is an easy consensus to be built. Surely, in the year when we are due to host COP26, this should be a matter that brings all parties together to achieve meaningful advance. It is a matter of infinite regret that we are not able to do so.

My first plea to the Minister and the Government is this. If we are to have further delay, can we please use the time a bit better than we have so far? Can we ensure that when we host COP26 later this year, we can point to a significant achievement as an instance where we are leading the world, rather than being pulled along in this area of vital importance to all future generations?

I worked regularly with the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow), on the subject of plastic pollution when she was on the Back Benches. It pains me to say that in that respect, the Bill is a major disappointment. We realise that as a consequence of many of the short-term changes that were necessary to tackle the pandemic, the progress that we had been making on the use of single-use plastic has been put on the back burner. That is regrettable, and possibly necessary, but a concerted effort by the Government is required. The pandemic and the restrictions under which we are living will not last forever, but it feels as though the plastic pollution that we are generating now will do so. It will certainly be with us for decades. That is why we must look to the lessons of how we constructed the Climate Change Act 2008, for example, and get on with the business of setting meaningful targets and having meaningful ways of holding the Government to account for meeting them.

The Minister has new clause 11, from her colleague the hon. Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder). Surely that could be given greater impetus now that more time is to be put into the management of this Bill. When she was on the Back Benches, the Minister worked well on the subject with people from across the House. Will she carry on doing that work as a Minister on the Front Bench?

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) [V]
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I welcome the opportunity to speak to the Government amendments that were made in Committee to clarify the enforcement powers in England of the Office for Environmental Protection, and particularly the fact that further amendments will be made to ensure that they remain aligned with the OEP functions in Northern Ireland. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that that will be the case. I am aware that there has been co-operation with Northern Ireland Ministers, who have requested that these amendments also be made in relation to Northern Ireland, but I welcome their inclusion and this alignment. If only we could see something similar in all aspects of our governance, such as trade, we would be in a much healthier position, with full shelves—but perhaps that is another debate for another day.

I endorse the comments of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) about plastic pollution, and I request, as he did, that Ministers and Government make a concerted effort to maintain the reduction of plastic pollution. Although we have seen a lot of reduction, we still need more. Enforceability is always a concern of mine. It is right and proper that we introduce greater, more effective legislation, but it is no use unless there is no doubt about the interpretation of the OEP enforcement provisions and the courts’ ability to grant remedies. Many of us would like to ensure that there is no doubt that the courts can and will enforce the Bill’s provisions.

I am a country sports enthusiast, as I am sure the Minister knows, and part of my being a country sports enthusiast is a dedication and commitment to conservation. That is why the Bill is important; it is an essential component of our moving forward, and that is what I always seek to ensure. It is right and proper that there is a legislative obligation to think about environmental principles and I welcome this addition.

However, some constituents have made it clear that they believe the Bill does not go far enough. I seek further clarification from the Minister. Would she be so kind, during her summing up, to outline the rationale behind excluding defence and procurement from these obligations? Every Government Department should play its part. Whilst it should not be the priority of Defence to think of the economy first—the safety of the nation is first—my constituents believe there could still be an obligation to give consideration to the impact within the process of reaching decisions.

I speak as chair of the all-party parliamentary group for healthy homes and buildings. When it comes to the environment, we believe that more could be done to ensure that Government works with developers to help ensure that new projects are much more sustainable. For example, instead of a developer being responsible for the full price of sewer works, and putting in the least that can be expected to enable them to turn a profit, surely Government or local council assistance to put in long-term environmentally sustainable, more costly infrastructure will benefit us all. I also want to put in a word for the importance of air quality, insulation, heating and play areas—the improvement of all buildings in the future.

I am conscious that the Minister has a lot on her plate—a lot of questions to answer—but I thank her for the time and hope she can take these points on board.

Kim Johnson Portrait Kim Johnson (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab) [V]
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I would like to start by thanking my constituents who have contributed to this debate by sending me emails.

We are in a climate and ecological emergency. Considering the scale and urgency of the crisis we are facing, it is staggering that the Government have seen fit to postpone the Bill yet again. We have a responsibility to take rapid and radical action towards sustainability and environmental protection. Delaying this core piece of legislation is a major setback to that work. In the run-up to hosting COP26 later this year, the Bill should be an absolute priority, as should commitment to maintaining and enhancing environmental protection. That it is not, speaks volumes about the commitment of this Government to the environment, to our global responsibilities and to future generations.

The Bill, as it stands, has been called a missed opportunity by the Environmental Audit Committee, and has failed to enshrine action on climate change at the heart of Government policy. Environmental campaigners and organisations across the board have been clear that we need ambitious targets, enforced by a fully independent watchdog, with significant powers to actively dissuade the contravention of environmental legislation. However, if the watchdog is to be effective, it must be capable of holding the Government to account, and that means full independence and serious powers to prosecute and impose financial penalties. The Bill currently allows the OEP to be guided by the Secretary of State, threatening to turn it from a watchdog into a lapdog.

I support many of the various amendments that have been tabled today to strengthen the Bill, including amendment 23, which would ensure the independence of the OEP. With the extra time we now have due to the postponement of the Bill, we could go even further. Will the Minister confirm that the Government will take on board the recommendations of countless environmental campaign groups, endless research projects and recognition by the UN itself that the environmental crisis cannot be tackled without powerful legislation and a fundamental rethink of our economic strategy?

The Bill must take the opportunity to put forward a radical vision that puts climate justice and sustainability at the heart of government through a massive programme of investment and regulation, to offer every worker in high-carbon and unsustainable industries the option of retraining, and to be relocated into high-skill, high-wage jobs in their own communities, from insulating houses to green tech to expanding public transport. “Redeployment not redundancies” must be the strategy. The working class must not pay the price for the corporate greed ravaging the Earth. Instead, strategic support and investment must be undertaken to protect both people and planet, clamp down on tax avoidance and use the income to generate sustainable jobs and invest in a carbon-zero economy. Tinkering at the edges is not an option; the Government must take the rapid and radical action needed to get a grip.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab) [V]
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I will be voting in favour of amendment 25 to the Environment Bill, to embed World Health Organisation targets on air quality; amendment 23, to ensure the Office for Environmental Protection is truly independent; and new clause 9, to enforce commitments to protect biodiversity, health and wellbeing, and the sustainable use of resources. However, due to time constraints, I will focus on Labour’s amendment 39, and the importance of Parliament scrutinising the granting of any exemptions for the use of banned pesticides.

I share the concerns of my Luton South constituents who have contacted me, and the more than 50,000 people who have signed the Wildlife Trust’s petition about protecting bees from the use of neonicotinoids. Their existence is too important to the functioning and survival of ecosystems, so the protection of bees is non-negotiable. It is important to recognise, though, that bees are not just in rural areas: the bees in Luton South produce the delicious High Town Honey just around the corner from me, which has won several prizes at the Bedfordshire Beekeepers Association honey show. The decline of bees will have a disastrous impact on food security. Bees pollinate around 70% of the fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds we eat, but in the UK 13 bee species are already extinct, and one in 10 of Europe’s wild bee species is under threat.

The Secretary of State has authorised farmers to use neonicotinoids on sugar beet crops, even though it is widely recognised that they kill bees. The Government’s justification that sugar beet is not a flowering crop, and therefore the risk is acceptable, does not stand up to scrutiny. A similar application for the use of neonicotinoids in 2018 was refused by the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides because of “unacceptable environmental risks.” This is not to say that overall, I do not recognise the genuine concerns of sugar beet growers across the east of England, but the Government should back farmers to help create a sustainable solution through better support for the sector, accelerating the introduction of blight-resistant crops, and including allowances for crop loss in next year’s sugar contracts.

The Government’s decision to allow the use of banned pesticides has too big a consequence for there to be no parliamentary scrutiny. The emergency authorisation of pesticides must never become common practice. The Government have a clear choice today: vote to speed up the decline of our bee population, or uphold the ban, allow parliamentary scrutiny of future exemptions, and save our bees.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I thank hon. Members for their co-operation: we have managed to get everybody from the Back Benches in during this debate. I now call the Minister, Rebecca Pow.

Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker; it is an absolute pleasure to have you in the seat today—the hot seat, as I like to call it.

I thank all those right hon. and hon. Friends and Members who have tabled amendments and contributed to today’s debate, helping to scrutinise this Bill. They have highlighted the importance that so many people place on the issue of the environment, and how important it is that we tackle biodiversity loss, climate change, and environmental risks to public health. In particular, I thank those Members who are so positive about this Bill—which, of course, I am as well—including my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Saqib Bhatti), who has done so much work with his faith groups on the issue of the environment. I also thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) and my hon. Friends the Members for Milton Keynes North (Ben Everitt) and for Keighley (Robbie Moore) for their enthusiasm. This is a phenomenal ambition, as my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North said, and it is a good day at the office—in fact, it is very exciting to get out of the office.

I will start with the environmental principles, and respond to the concerns that have been raised by hon. Members. We are legislating to ensure that the environment is front and centre of our future policy making; however, we need to ensure that our approach is balanced. That is why we must reject new clause 1 and amendment 1 tabled by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), about which she spoke so eloquently in her opening speech. We must also reject amendments 43 and 44.

Removing the requirement to act proportionately, as set out in amendment 1, would require Ministers to prioritise the principles even where they incur significant disproportionate costs to society, or hinder innovation and sustainable development. This is not our intention. Before I turn to the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock), I will clarify that contrary to her comments, this is not an England-only Bill. Over half its measures extend beyond England, bringing benefits right across the UK.

I turn to amendments 43 and 44, which relate to exemptions. The exemptions to the definition of environmental law simply mean that legislation concerning the armed forces, national security, tax spending and allocation of resources would be excluded. I note, however, that the Scottish Government have taken a similar approach in the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill, exempting defence and national security. Our exemptions do not alter the accountability of public authorities where duties are imposed on them under existing environmental legislation —for example, the MOD’s duties under the habitats regulations. I have discussed the MOD’s strong commitment on environmental protections with my counterpart in the MOD.

Similarly, new clause 1 would place a major burden on Government and public authorities without adding any significant environmental benefit. Applying the duty to individual decisions risks public authorities being overwhelmed by an all-encompassing duty and creating additional complexity and cost.

With that in mind, I would like to address the important concerns raised in amendment 4 by my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown), whom I had the pleasure of meeting very recently and whom I have just written to. I agree with the sentiment behind his amendment and reassure him that our approach to the precautionary principle includes a proportionate and risk-focused application respecting the balance with social, economic and other considerations. This will be provided for in the policy statement, which will be published for consultation very shortly. If the use of the principle relied on information included in an alternative statutory document—the regulatory code that the amendment refers to—the clarity of its proportional interpretation and application may be confused or even lost.

I will now address the points raised by hon. Members relating to the setting of long-term targets in the Bill. Regarding new clause 5, long-term targets will be developed through a robust evidence-led process, and we shall not prejudge where this will take us. I can commit to the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) that our proposed objectives for biodiversity targets include restoring species populations and priority habitats, which will improve the state of nature. By setting targets of at least 15 years, we will ensure that Governments look beyond the short term, but this does not mean we should not make progress until 2030. We are confident that the process we have put in place to develop targets will contribute to meeting new global goals set under the convention on biological diversity.

In addition, with regards to new clause 17, the Government’s economic objectives and decision-making processes are already aligned with ambitious commitments to net zero and to improving the natural environment within a generation. HM Treasury’s world-leading Green Book requires that all impacts to society as a whole, including environmental impacts, are assessed when developing policy options. This includes monetised and non-monetised climate and environmental impacts. Policies must also consider any legal constraints such as the net zero target.

Continuing to new clause 11, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder). However, we cannot accept the amendment proposed, as we actually want to see a more ambitious resources and waste target under the Bill, which applies holistically to all materials, not just plastic.

Turning to amendments 21 and 28, we would all agree that the pandemic has underlined the important role of nature in our health and wellbeing. This has been recognised through our green social prescribing project and the £18 million that we have contributed to our green recovery challenge fund. Through their environmental improvement plan, the Government will be able to set out the further steps that they intend to take to improve people’s enjoyment of the natural world. One of the 10 goals of the 25-year environment plan also commits to enhancing beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment. The 25-year environment plan is the first environmental improvement plan, and it is clearly in there.

Amendments 2 and 25 were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) and the hon. Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden). The hon. Members for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) and for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) also referred to them. I share hon. Members’ desire for ambitious action to reduce public exposure to PM2.5, but these amendments would not allow for robust scientific analysis before setting targets. The World Health Organisation is clear that air quality guidelines should inform the setting of air quality standards, but it acknowledged that they are not ready-made targets ready for adoption. I can absolutely assure hon. Members and hon. Friends that we will be considering the World Health Organisation’s guideline level for PM2.5 when setting these new air quality targets. I personally met Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, and it was a humbling experience. I want to give assurances that we will give this our full attention. Setting a target for PM2.5 is technically highly challenging and we must have a clear pathway to the delivery of the target. We will seek expert input and stakeholder views to develop not just one but two legally binding air quality targets.

Amendment 5 was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton). Interim targets will set the trajectory towards long-term legally binding targets and drive environmental ambition. The Bill introduces a robust system for ensuring that we take these targets seriously and report on them. We all know that the trajectory of environmental improvement can be unpredictable, particularly for areas such as biodiversity, but setting interim targets in the environment improvement plan provides a degree of flexibility while still ensuring that there is a clear framework of transparency and accountability.

Amendment 39 was tabled by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) and was referred to by a great many Opposition colleagues. Pesticides are already subject to strict regulation. They may be used only if they have been authorised following an assessment of risks to people and the environment. I know all this because I grew up on a farm. The decision to grant an emergency authorisation for a neonicotinoid seed treatment for sugar beet—a non-flowering crop, I might highlight—is fully in line with the EU regulations that were retained in UK law at the end of the transition period. Ten member states, including Belgium, Denmark and Spain, granted similar emergency authorisations in 2020.

I assure Members of the strict conditions attached to this decision, to minimise environmental risks, including important protection for bees and other pollinators. I garden for wildlife at home, and I know how important it is to look after our pollinators. Our opposition on neonicotinoids has not changed. We supported the ban in 2018 and we stand by that now—[Interruption.] I must just penultimately turn to the Office for Environmental Protection. I wish to respond to amendment 23. It would remove clause 24, which provides an important power for the Secretary of State to issue guidance for the OEP. This is intended to address ambiguities relating to the OEP’s enforcement functions, and they are considered very important. It does not provide the Secretary of State with any power to issue directions or intervene on specific decisions. [Interruption.] I just want to touch on new clause 14, tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers). I assure her that there are already strong protections for the environment in the planning system.

I am now going to conclude, Madam Deputy Speaker, because I know that you are hem-hemming at me. I thought you said 5.40, so I am going for it. I just want to say that we are delivering on our commitment to the environment, despite the pandemic, and we want to build back a fairer, greener and more resilient future. We will continue to work in the gap before the second day of the Report stage and we will achieve Royal Assent before COP26.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas [V]
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I thank all Members for their important contributions to the debate, but there is really only one test that matters when it comes to this Bill: does it improve on the protections that we enjoyed as EU members, and is it up to the challenge of the accelerating nature and climate emergencies? Sadly, the answer is no on both counts.

Time and again this afternoon, we have heard that the Bill lacks both ambition and urgency. As many hon. Members have said, with two vital UN meetings on biodiversity and climate this year, it is even more important that we have our own house in order. We cannot hope to influence the performance of other countries if we have not demonstrated leadership in our own domestic policy.

I particularly support those speeches in favour of more ambitious, legally enforceable air quality targets, which are needed now. A number of hon. Members made reference to the tragic death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah. Strong, binding legislation would be the only fitting tribute to her and to her mother, who has campaigned so tirelessly for that. I welcome the fact that the Minister has said she will look at it again.

On the state of nature, the case for legally binding interim targets was powerfully made by Members on both sides of the House. I hope that the Minister will take account of that. I noticed that she did not commit to legally binding targets for 2030, or that the interim targets should be binding, yet that is essential if we are to improve on the Government’s woeful record; they have actually gone backwards on six of the 20 UN biodiversity targets.

I am not reassured by what the Minister said about the independence of the OEP or the strength of the environmental principles. On the OEP, she says that the guidance is intended simply to address ambiguities. That is not the way the Bill is written. The Bill is written in such a way that Ministers will be able to give instruction to that body, not least because they will also give it its budget and have a major say on who makes up its board. That means that the Government will have a disproportionate impact on the OEP, which should be truly independent.

On the principles, I noticed with interest that the Minister appears to have given up trying to persuade us that “due regard” is at least as strong as “in accordance with”. I assume that is because she recognises that that case cannot be made because it is simply not true. In that case, I hope she will undertake to revise that element of the Bill.

The Minister says that applying the principles to public bodies as well as to Ministers is too burdensome. I remind her that it simply replicates what we enjoyed as members of the EU, which was not seen to be too burdensome, and that her Government promised that they would increase the ambition of EU legislation, not water it down in this way. The Environmental Audit Committee, in its pre-legislative scrutiny, concluded:

“This aspect of the Bill is not fit for purpose.”

The Committee recommended that the principles should be

“put on an unqualified legal basis”

and extended to all public bodies, and I echo that conclusion.

I take heart from the strong statements of support for more ambitious action on the environment from Members on both sides of the House, but those on the Government side need to understand that, as it is currently drafted, the Bill will not even make up for the protections we have lost as a result of leaving the EU, let alone improve on them, and that unless we fix our broken economic system as my new clause 17 sets out, we will not achieve anything like sustainability anywhere near fast enough.

I urge the Minister again to use the time gained by the delay to the Bill to increase its strength and ambition. It could not be more urgent. Over the course of my lifetime alone, populations of some of our most important wildlife have plummeted by over half, and over 15% of species are now threatened with extinction. As the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) said in his powerful speech, if we are not going to be ambitious now, when are we? New clause 1 would re-establish a legally binding architecture for essential environmental protections, and I would therefore like to press it to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.

More than three hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on consideration, the debate was interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

New Clause 5

State of nature target

‘(1) It is the duty of the Secretary of State to set a target to halt and begin to reverse the decline in the state of nature in England as soon as reasonably practicable and no later than 2030.

(2) The target in subsection (1) shall be known as the state of nature target.

(3) The Secretary of State must ensure that the state of nature target is met.

(4) A draft statutory instrument containing regulations that make provision for how progress toward the state of nature target will be measured must be laid before Parliament at least one month before the fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

(5) Before laying before Parliament a draft of a statutory instrument under this section, the Secretary of State must obtain, publish and take into account the advice of relevant experts, including—

(a) The Environment Agency;

(b) Natural England;

(c) The Office for Environment Protection; and

(d) The Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

(6) In this section—

(a) the abundance and distribution of species;

(b) the risk of extinction; and

(c) the extent and condition of priority habitats.’— (Hilary Benn.)

This new clause would place a duty on the Secretary of State to set and meet a target to begin to reverse the loss of biodiversity in England no later than 2030. This timetable would align with the new Convention on Biological Diversity goals that are due to be agreed in 2021.

Brought up.

Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.

The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.

Clause 2

Environmental targets: particulate matter

Amendment proposed: 25, page 2, line 24, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

“(2) The PM2.5 air quality target must—

(a) be less than or equal to 10µg/m3;

(b) follow World Health Organisation guidelines; and

(c) have an attainment deadline on or before 1 January 2030.” —(Ruth Jones.)

This amendment is intended to set parameters on the face of the Bill to ensure that the PM2.5 target will be at least as strict as the 2005 WHO guidelines, with an attainment deadline of 2030 at the latest.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.

Clause 6

ENVIRONMENTAL TARGETS: REVIEW

Amendment made: 6, page 5, line 2, at end insert—

“(9) In this section “England” includes—

(a) the English inshore region, and

(b) the English offshore region,

within the meaning of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (see section 322 of that Act).”—(Rebecca Pow.)

This amendment provides that in Clause 6 England includes the English inshore region and the English offshore region.

Clause 7

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPROVEMENT PLANS

Amendment proposed: 39, page 5, line 21, at end insert—

“(7A) If an exemption is granted under Article 53 of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council, concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market, which is likely to affect species covered by an environmental improvement plan—

(a) a report must be laid before Parliament within one month of the exemption decision on the likely effects of the exemption on populations of—

(i) bees,

(ii) other pollinators, and

(iii) other species,

(b) the scientific advice given to ministers relating to the exemption must be published as an addendum to the report, and

(c) a Minister of the Crown must, not later than one month after the report is laid before Parliament under paragraph (8), move a Motion in the House of Commons in relation to the report.

(7B) The requirement in subsection (7A) shall apply retrospectively to exemptions granted within the last 12 months of the coming into force of this Act.”—(Luke Pollard.)

This amendment places requirements on Ministers to allow parliamentary scrutiny of exemptions granted to allow plant protection products banned under retained EU law (such as neonicotinoid pesticides), where they are likely to impact bees and other species covered by an environmental improvement plan.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.

Clause 37

Environmental review

Amendment made: 31, page 22, line 30, at end insert “; but this does not require the court to apply section 31(2A) of the Senior Courts Act 1981 (High Court to refuse to grant relief where the outcome for the applicant not substantially different) on an environmental review in England and Wales.”

This amendment clarifies that section 31(2A) of the Senior Courts Act 1981 does not apply on an environmental review. Clause 38(3) already disapplies that section to judicial reviews brought by the OEP. —(Rebecca Pow.)

Schedule 3

The Office for Environmental Protection: Northern Ireland

Amendments made: 9, page 143, line 38, at end insert—

(aa) explains why the OEP considers that the alleged failure, if it occurred, would be serious, and”

Under paragraph 9 of Schedule 3 the OEP may give a relevant public authority an information notice if it has reasonable grounds to suspect that the authority has failed to comply with relevant environmental law, and it considers that the failure, if it occurred, would be serious. This amendment requires the information notice to explain why the OEP considers that the alleged failure, if it occurred, would be serious.

Amendment 10, page 144, line 28, at end insert—

(aa) explains why the OEP considers that the failure is serious, and”

Under paragraph 10 of Schedule 3 the OEP may give a relevant public authority a decision notice if it is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the authority has failed to comply with relevant environmental law, and it considers that the failure is serious. This amendment requires the decision notice to explain why the OEP considers that the failure is serious.

Amendment 11, page 146, line 4, at end insert “, but only if—

(a) it is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the authority has failed to comply with relevant environmental law, and

(b) it considers that the failure is serious.”

This amendment provides that the OEP may only bring a review application against a relevant public authority if it is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the authority has failed to comply with relevant environmental law, and it considers the failure is serious. This aligns the conditions for bringing a review application with the conditions for giving a decision notice.

Amendment 12, page 146, line 5, leave out sub-paragraph (2)

The OEP may only bring a review application after it has given a decision notice. This amendment removes the OEP’s power to bring a review application in relation to conduct occurring after a decision notice is given, which is similar or related to the conduct described in the decision notice.

Amendment 13, page 146, line 12, leave out “or (2)”

This amendment is consequential on the removal of paragraph 12(2) of Schedule 3 by Amendment 12.

Amendment 14, page 146, line 43 [Schedule 3], at end insert “, and

(b) the urgency condition is met.”

This amendment provides that the OEP may only bring a judicial review under paragraph 13 of Schedule 3, rather than proceeding by way of information notice, decision notice and review application, in urgent cases. Amendments 15 and 16 define what is meant by urgent.

Amendment 15, page 146, line 44, leave out from beginning to “(rather” in line 45 and insert “The urgency condition is that making an application under sub-paragraph (1)”

This amendment, together with Amendment 16, provides that a case is urgent only if it is necessary to bring a judicial review, rather than proceeding by way of information notice, decision notice and review application, to prevent or mitigate serious damage to the natural environment or to human health.

Amendment 16, page 147, line 1, after “12)” insert “is necessary”

See Amendment 15.

Amendment 17, page 147, line 11, leave out sub-paragraph (5) and insert—

‘(5) Sub-paragraph (6) applies to proceedings (including any appeal) that—

(a) are in respect of an application for judicial review, and

(b) relate to an alleged failure by a relevant public authority to comply with relevant environmental law (however the allegation is framed in those proceedings).

(6) If the OEP considers that the alleged failure, if it occurred, would be serious, it may apply to intervene in the proceedings (whether it considers that the relevant public authority has, or has not, failed to comply with relevant environmental law).”

This amendment provides that the OEP may apply to intervene in a judicial review relating to an alleged failure by a relevant public authority to comply with relevant environmental law only if it considers that the failure, if it occurred, would be serious. If that test is satisfied, it may apply to intervene whether or not it considers that the authority has in fact failed to comply with relevant environmental law.

Amendment 18, page 152, line 6, after “10(1)(b)” insert “, 12(1)(b)”

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 11. It requires the OEP’s enforcement policy to set out how the OEP will determine whether a failure to comply with relevant environmental law is serious for the purposes of paragraph 12(1)(b) of Schedule 3, which is inserted by Amendment 11.

Amendment 19, page 152, line 6, after “13(1)” insert “and (6)”

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 17. It requires the OEP’s enforcement policy to set out how the OEP will determine whether a failure to comply with relevant environmental law is serious for the purposes of paragraph 13(6) of Schedule 3, which is inserted by Amendment 17.

Amendment 20, page 152, line 35, at end insert—

23A After section 24 (guidance on the OEP’s enforcement policy and functions) insert—

“24A Guidance on the OEP’s Northern Ireland enforcement policy and functions

(1) The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland may issue guidance to the OEP on the matters listed in section 22(6) (OEP’s enforcement policy), so far as relating to the OEP’s Northern Ireland enforcement functions.

(2) The OEP must have regard to the guidance in—

(a) preparing its enforcement policy, so far as relating to its Northern Ireland enforcement functions, and

(b) exercising its Northern Ireland enforcement functions.

(3) The Department may revise the guidance at any time.

(4) The Department must lay before the Northern Ireland Assembly, and publish, the guidance (and any revised guidance).

(5) The OEP’s “Northern Ireland enforcement functions” are its functions under paragraphs 6 to 15 of Schedule 3.”” .—(Rebecca Pow.)

This amendment provides that the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland may issue guidance to the OEP on the matters listed in clause 22(6) (OEP’s enforcement policy), so far as relating to the OEP’s Northern Ireland enforcement functions. The OEP must have regard to the guidance in preparing its enforcement policy and exercising its Northern Ireland enforcement functions.

New Clause 8

Waste Hierarchy

“(1) In interpreting responsibilities under Part 3 of this Act and in all matters relating to waste and resource efficiency the Secretary of State must take account of the requirements of the waste hierarchy, starting with the priority action of prevention.

(2) In this section, “waste hierarchy” has the same meaning as in the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 (S.I. 2011/988).”—(Ruth Jones.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 10—Environmental impact of nappy waste—

“(1) Schedule [Environmental impact of nappy waste] confers powers on the relevant national authority to make regulations about environmental standards for nappies.

(2) The relevant national authority means—

(a) in relation to England, the Secretary of State;

(b) in relation to Wales, the Welsh Ministers or the Secretary of State;

(c) in relation to Scotland, the Scottish Ministers or the Secretary of State;

(d) in relation to Northern Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland or the Secretary of State.

(3) Regulations are subjective to the negative procedure.”

The new clause enables the addition of NS1 which is intended to reduce the impact on the environment of disposable nappies, and has been adapted from a Private Member’s Bill (Bill 299) on this matter.

New schedule 1—Environmental impact of nappy waste—

“Nappy waste impact reduction schemes

1 The relevant national authority must by regulations establish schemes to reduce the impact of nappies on the environment by—

(a) defining the characteristics required for a nappy to meet environmental standards;

(b) promoting nappies which meet environmental standards; and

(c) reporting on the steps taken to encourage local authorities to promote reuseable nappies and reduce nappy waste.

Environmental standards

2 (1) The relevant national authority must by regulations establish environmental standards for nappies.

(2) The standards must define the characteristics required for a nappy to be traded, advertised or promoted as—

(a) “reusable”;

(b) “biodegradable”;

(c) “eco-friendly”;

(d) “environmentally friendly”; and

(e) other such similar terms as may be defined in the standards.

(3) The regulations may provide for nappies or the packaging in which they are contained to bear a mark signifying that they meet the environmental standards.

(4) The trading, advertising or promotion of a nappy is an unfair commercial practice for the purposes of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (S.I. 2008/1277) if—

(a) that nappy is described using a term used in sub-sub-paragraphs (2)(a) to (d) or a similar term defined in regulations under sub-paragraph (1) but does not meet the relevant standards, or

(b) that nappy or its packaging bears the mark in sub-paragraph (3) but does not meet the relevant standards.

Promotion of nappies that meet environmental standards

3 (1) The relevant national authority must by regulations establish a scheme to promote nappies that meet the environmental standards in paragraph 2.

(2) The scheme must be a collaboration between public bodies and the nappy industry.

(3) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for a levy to be paid by persons who manufacture or trade in nappies for the purpose of meeting the operating expenses of the scheme.

(4) The scheme must provide public information on—

(a) the effects of disposable nappies on the environment;

(b) the financial advantages of reusable nappies for families and local authorities; and

(c) other advantages of nappies that meet the standards in paragraph 2.

Local authority reusable nappy schemes

4 (1) The relevant national authority must prepare a report on steps that will be taken to encourage local authorities to operate schemes to—

(a) promote the use of reusable nappies, and

(b) reduce nappy waste.

(2) In preparing that report, the relevant national authority must consult—

(a) operators of existing reusable nappy schemes,

(b) local authorities involved in those schemes,

(c) parents who have participated in such schemes,

(d) manufacturers of reusable nappies.

(3) The report must be laid—

(a) in relation to England, before Parliament;

(b) in relation to Wales, in Senedd Cymru;

(c) in relation to Scotland, in the Scottish Parliament; and

(d) in relation to Northern Ireland, in the Northern Ireland Assembly; or in Parliament;

within six months of this section coming into force.”

This new schedule brings into the Bill the provisions of the Private Member’s Bill on Nappies (Environmental Standards) Bill (Bill 299) in order to define environmental standards for nappies, promote nappies that meet the standards, and report on local authority schemes to promote reuseable nappies and reduce nappy waste.

Government amendments 32 to 35.

New clause 6—Clean Air Duty—

“(1) The Secretary of State must prepare and publish an annual policy statement setting out how the Government is working to improve air quality, and must lay a copy of the report before Parliament.

(2) The annual policy statement in subsection (1) must include—

(a) how public authorities are improving air quality, including indoor air quality; and

(b) how Government departments are working together to improve air quality, including indoor air quality.

(3) A Minister of the Crown must, not later than three months after the report has been laid before Parliament, table a motion in the House of Commons in relation to the report.”

This new clause requires the Secretary of State to publish an annual report on air quality, which includes indoor air quality and the work of public authorities and Government departments working together to improve it.

New clause 13—Air quality in rural areas: application of pesticides—

“(1) For the purposes of improving air quality and protecting human health and the environment in rural areas, the Secretary of State must by regulations make provision prohibiting the application of pesticides for the purposes of agriculture or horticulture near—

(a) buildings used for human habitation; and

(b) public or private buildings and associated open spaces where members of the public may be present, including but not limited to—

(i) schools and childcare nurseries;

(ii) hospitals and health care facilities.

(2) Regulations under subsection (1) must specify a minimum distance from any of the locations listed under subsection (1)(a) and (b) to be maintained during the application of any pesticide.

(3) In determining the distance in subsection (2), the Secretary of State must be guided by the optimum distance that would make significant difference in air quality for people using the locations listed in subsection (1).

(4) In this section “public building” includes any building used for the purposes of education.

(5) Regulations under this section are subject to affirmative resolution procedure.”

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to make regulations to prohibit the application and pollution of chemical pesticides near buildings and spaces used by residents and members of the public, with the aim of improving air quality and protecting human health and the environment in rural areas.

Government amendment 7.

New clause 3—Phosphates Levels—

“In making decisions on planning decisions, the competent authority can disregard any impact of the potential build and its long-term consequences on the level of phosphates in the water.”

Amendment 42, in clause 78, page 71, line 16, after “licensee”, insert—

“or risk management authority, where risk management authority has the same meaning as in Part 1 Section 6 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010,”.

The amendment seeks to deliver the National Infrastructure Commission’s recommendation that water companies and local authorities should publish plans to manage surface water flood risk (e.g. from roads).

Amendment 3, in clause 82, page 79, line 22, after “damage” insert—

“, including damage from low flows”.

Amendment 30, in clause 82, page 80, line 26, at end insert—

“(4) The Secretary of State must prepare an annual report on water abstraction management.

(5) The annual report must—

(a) include data for the period covered on the volume of water in England—

(i) licensed for abstraction, and

(ii) abstracted.

(b) state whether the natural environment of these water sources has, or particular aspects of it have, improved during that period based on the data, and

(c) assess the impact of water abstraction in that period on the natural environment of chalk streams.

(6) The first annual report on water abstraction may relate to any 12 month period that includes the day on which this section comes into force.

(7) The annual report must be published and laid before Parliament within 4 months of the last day of the period to which the report relates.”

The purpose of this amendment is to monitor more closely the environmental impact of water abstraction on chalk streams with annual reporting.

Government amendment 8.

New clause 18—REACH Regulation and animal testing—

“(1) The Secretary of State must by regulations set targets for—

(a) the replacement of types of tests on animals conducted to protect human health and the environment within the scope of the REACH Regulation, and

(b) the reduction pending replacement of the numbers of animals used and the suffering they endure.

(2) A target under this section to reduce the suffering of animals must specify—

(a) a standard to be achieved, which must be capable of being objectively measured, and

(b) a date by which it is to be achieved.

(3) Regulations under this section may make provision about how a target that has been set is to be measured.

(4) A target under this section is initially set when the regulations setting it come into force.”

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to set targets for the reduction and replacement of animal testing for the purposes of chemicals regulation.

Amendment 24, in schedule 20, page 244, line 19, at end insert—

“(1A) Regulations made under this paragraph must not regress upon the protections or standards of any Article or Annex of the REACH Regulation.

(1B) Subject to sub-paragraph (1A), the Secretary of State—

(a) must make regulations under this paragraph to maintain, and

(b) may make regulations under this paragraph to exceed parity of all protections and standards of chemical regulation with any new or amended regulations of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the regulation of chemicals.”

This amendment would set a minimum of protections under REACH and remove the possibility that a Secretary of State might lower standards than are in place currently, whilst reserving the right for them to set higher standards should they choose.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones
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As my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) said in his remarks on the first group of amendments, this Bill has been a long time coming. I am delighted that the Bill is back before the House, but—and there is a “but”—the Minister and her colleagues have lengthened its passage even further by throwing day two of the Report stage into the long, long grass. Considering that the Bill became known as the missing in action Bill after it disappeared for more than 200 days before the Committee stage, that is not a good sign.

New clause 8 holds a key role in the priorities of Her Majesty’s Opposition with regard to this Bill and the important task of taking whatever steps are necessary in the fight to preserve our planet and protect our environment. The new clause requires the Secretary of State to take account of the waste hierarchy, starting with the priority action of prevention. A few weeks ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) filled in for me as shadow Minister at a Westminster Hall debate called by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn). In his remarks, my hon. Friend was very clear that the collective task of tackling waste, improving recycling rates and taking the steps needed to protect our environment and preserve our planet is one that we need to do together—all of us. In his conclusion, the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington pressed the point about the need to look further at the waste hierarchy in dealing with waste. I agree with him. I look forward to him supporting new clause 8 in the Lobby tonight, and I hope he will bring some of his hon. Friends with him.

This Bill does not go far enough, and it did not have to be this way. Over the past two decades, the household waste recycling rate in England has increased significantly from just 11.2% to almost 50%. I am pleased that for half of that time a Labour Government ambitiously pushed for a change of behaviour and real action on the green agenda. However, England still falls far short of the EU target of recycling a minimum of 50% of household waste by 2020. Our departure from the EU does not mean that we should shift gear or slow down. We need to go further and faster.

As of 2018, Wales is the only nation in the UK to reach the target. In 2017, it recorded a recycling rate of 64%. Wales is recognised as third in Europe and fourth in the world in the recycling league championship. As the Member for Newport West in this House, I pay tribute to the Welsh Labour Government, particularly my right hon. Friend the First Minister and the Environment Minister, Lesley Griffiths.

The Minister knows that England is responsible for the overwhelming majority of waste in UK households. It is vital that England and therefore this Government show leadership and act. We need to look no further for evidence of the need for swift action than DEFRA’s own resources and strategy monitoring report from August last year. It tells us:

“The large amount of avoidable residual waste and avoidable residual plastic waste generated by household sources each year suggests there remains substantial opportunity for increased recycling.”

The message from that assessment is that a substantial quantity of material appears to be going into the residual waste stream where it could at least have been recycled or dealt with higher up the waste hierarchy. So there it is. We just have to take this seriously now and our new clause 8 would do just that.

This issue is not just about waste here at home, but about the fact that English waste—for want of a better description—has an international impact, too. In response to a written question I asked at the end of last year, the Minister said this about the return of 21 waste containers from Sri Lanka:

“The Environment Agency…as the competent authority for waste shipments for England, is proactively engaging with the authorities in Sri Lanka on these containers and is leading the response on this matter. The 21 containers arrived back in England on Wednesday 28 October”—

in 2010.

“The containers, which were shipped to Sri Lanka in 2017, were found by Sri Lankan authorities to contain illegal materials described as mattresses and carpets which had been exported for recycling.”

Again, just two weeks ago, the UK was accused of failing to honour its promise to curb shipments of plastic waste to developing countries, after it emerged that Britain’s new post-Brexit regulations are less stringent than those imposed by the EU. Our new clause 8 would focus minds and I say to the House that the Bill cannot be used as a race to the bottom. We on the Labour Benches will do all we can to stop that from happening.

On that point, I wonder if the Minister can explain the mysterious missing case of the deposit return scheme? I have a sneaking suspicion that Ministers are looking to scale back their ambition and move away from the all-in scheme. That would be unacceptable, so can the Minister pick that up when winding up the debate, please? I should also say at this point that I am grateful to Ruth Chambers from the Greener Alliance for her unfailing commitment to these issues and the green agenda.

On amendment 24, Labour seeks to highlight an all-too-important issue that does not get the focus it deserves. The amendment would set a minimum level of protections under REACH—the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals—and remove the possibility that a Secretary of State might lower standards that are in place currently, while reserving the right to set higher standards should they choose. How can the Minister disagree with that? Indeed, the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) recognised the importance of chemical alignment so that we do not become a dumping ground for hazardous chemicals, so why does this Minister and this Secretary of State not recognise it?

I am also very grateful to Chloe Alexander and her colleagues at the Chem Trust, who do wonderful work highlighting the vital nature of chemical regulation. As she put it, the UK REACH regime for regulating chemicals is already weaker and less transparent than the system it is replicating. The powers given to the Secretary of State in the Bill could further reduce the level of protection for the public and the environment from hazardous chemicals. Amendment 24 would prevent damaging deregulation and also help to maintain regularity parity with EU REACH and chemical-related laws that would prevent the dumping of products on the UK market that failed to meet EU regulations, and avoid the cost and complexity of regulatory divergence on industry. I agree with that and I urge the Minister to get her Back Benchers behind amendment 24.

My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) spoke earlier to our Front-Bench amendment on air quality, and with new clause 6 in mind I want to pay tribute to the life of Ella Kissi-Debrah and express my deepest condolences to her mum, Rosamund, and the family. Her death, as Labour’s Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said yesterday,

“is a painful reminder that the human cost of damage from air pollution is very real…Toxic air is a public health crisis, and I will keep fighting for Londoners’ right to breathe clean air.”

The Mayor is right and he has my full support. Labour wants to take the same fight to all parts of England. The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) has tabled new clause 13 and new clause 18, both of which bring important elements to the Bill. I look forward to working on them with her in coming months and years.

Our amendments are pragmatic, objective and balanced. They make an okay Bill better and the Minister should seize the opportunity to work across party lines to do all we can together to preserve our environment and protect our planet.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Before I call the Minister, I should explain that there are many people who wish to speak this evening, so there will have to be an immediate time limit of three minutes for Back-Bench speeches. I remind hon. Members that, when a speaking limit is in effect for Back Benchers, a countdown clock will be visible on the screens. Yesterday, quite a lot of people spoke for longer than the time limit, so I want to make sure that everyone knows that there is a clock in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. For the few Members who are participating here in the Chamber, the normal clock will apply.

Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
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It is a real pleasure to see you in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the second half of what I am sure will be a lively debate on this important Bill. This group covers waste and resources, air quality, water and the regulation of chemicals—all vital areas to improve on if we are to restore and enhance our environment.

The Environment Bill will deliver consistent recycling collections across England, including separate weekly food collections. We will tackle waste crime by ensuring that the tools we have at our disposal better reflect new methods and online mediums that criminals use. We will also be able to drive a revolution in our resource use, continuing our change towards a more sustainable, circular economy, which is the model set out in our waste and resources strategy. We will have powers to ban the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries, which is a key manifesto commitment. While I am on the subject of plastic, I would like to pay special tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder) and to reassure him that measures in the Bill will help him to tackle the scourge of plastic on his beautiful beaches in West Dorset, which I frequent myself—from Somerset.

The Bill will also enable reform throughout the product lifetime. Producers will be incentivised towards more sustainable design, through new resource efficiency requirements and extended producer responsibility. Single-use plastic charges and resource efficiency information will help consumers make better choices about products, and the introduction of a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, alluded to by the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones)—I am pleased that she brought that up—will drive better consumer choices and increase recycling. I would like to assure her that work is going on at great speed on that second consultation.

Technical Government amendments 32 to 35 correct references to existing legislation that is no longer in force following the end of the transition period. Measures in the Bill will also deliver key proposals in our clean air strategy, which the World Health Organisation has described as “world leading”. Not only will it address health concerns, but it is estimated to cut the costs of air pollution to society by £1.7 billion every year by 2020—well, that is by this year, so we have already been working on that—rising to £5.3 billion every year from 2030. We know that there is more to do and, through this Bill, local authorities will be better equipped to act through a clear framework and simple-to-use powers to address specific concerns in these areas.

The Government have already committed to stopping the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and the Bill provides the Government with new powers to enforce environmental standards for vehicles. Government amendment 7 will mean that references to EU standards do not require updating to ensure that they are enforceable with this tough new vehicle recall power. It is a technical amendment that ends any risk that we will be unable to issue a recall affecting Northern Ireland.

Before I talk about the water section of the Bill, I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne) for his dedicated work on water issues and for being a dogged and determined advocate for our precious rivers.

Our climate is becoming less predictable, and we need to manage our water sources better to ensure resilience to future floods and droughts. The water measures in the Bill will help achieve the goals set out in our 25-year environment plan for clean and plentiful water and to reduce the risks of harm from environmental hazards. Water companies will have to produce drainage and sewerage management plans, which will set out how environmental risks, including sewage outflows into rivers, must be managed. Reforms to the abstraction licensing system will mean that less water is taken from our environment when it causes damage or harm.

I know that the health of our rivers, in terms of both flow levels and reducing sewage outflows, is of great concern to many Members; I have met so many of them to discuss this. My hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Sir Charles Walker) has tabled amendment 42, and I look forward to hearing what I am sure will be an impassioned speech from him. However, I am pleased to inform the House that the Bill already delivers the outcomes he is seeking: less water taken where it damages our environment and less sewage spilling into our precious waterways. Water companies will be able to produce joint water resource management plans for the first time, enabling water transfers from areas with plentiful water to water-stressed areas. We will reform the system of internal drainage boards, ensuring that our water management system is fit for the future. Technical Government amendment 8 will update clause 91, as it currently refers to the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which has now been superseded by the Sentencing Act 2020.

Finally, we will ensure that we are able to maintain an effective, efficient system of regulation for our world-leading chemicals industry now that we have left the EU. We have taken control of our domestic laws in this area through the UK REACH regime. I look forward to hearing the debate, in which I know many Members are eager to participate, and I hope to be able to cover many of the points raised at the end.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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I had said that there would be a limit of three minutes, but so many Members who had informed the Speaker’s Office that they wished to take part in the debate have decided not to bother that there is rather more time for those who have taken the trouble to meet their obligations. We will therefore start with a time limit of four minutes for Back-Bench speeches, which does not apply to the SNP spokesperson, Mr David Linden.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP)
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Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker; it is no surprise that you are so generous.

I have repeatedly spoken in the Chamber about the importance of protecting the environment for future generations. One issue that I have continued to raise—I did so in 2018, 2019, 2020 and I do so now in 2021—is that of disposable nappies and their impact on the environment. For several years, I have been working on this issue with Magnus Smyth of TotsBots, a company in the Queenslie area of my constituency that manufactures reusable and eco-friendly nappies. One of the issues that Magnus has raised is nappy companies that falsely tell their customers that they are eco-friendly. It is important that we level the playing field so that companies such as TotsBots can continue to produce eco-friendly products and encourage consumers to make more environmentally-conscious decisions.

New clause 10 outlines the crux of the issues around reusable and environmentally-friendly nappies. In summary, it states that powers should be granted to the relevant national authority to make regulations about environmental standards for nappies. Disposable nappies have a huge impact on the environment. To put that in context, around 3 billion single-use nappies are thrown away each year in the UK, weighing in at an estimated 690,000 tonnes. The use of single-use nappies by an average child over two and a half years would result in a global warming impact of approximately 550 kg of CO2 equivalents. Indeed, switching to reusable nappies or even using a mixture of both has hugely positive environmental consequences. A family that chooses reusable nappies can save about 99% of the waste that would be generated by using single-use ones. If only 20% of babies using single-use nappies switched to reusables, 1 million tonnes of waste could be prevented each year in the EU.

Under new schedule 1, “Nappy waste impact reduction schemes”, it is hugely important that all is done by the relevant national authority to establish schemes to reduce the impact of nappies on the environment. The new schedule clearly outlines how this can be done by defining the characteristics required for a nappy to meet environmental standards, promoting nappies that meet environmental standards, and reporting on the steps taken to encourage local authorities to promote reusable nappies and reduce nappy waste.

At this juncture, I want to highlight an example of a nappy scheme that has been very successful, and which I have visited. The Hackney real nappy network is an informal network of parents and carers who use and promote reusable nappies. It runs regular events and demos to help people make more informed choices around purchasing nappies while raising awareness of the free nappy voucher scheme.

The second part of the new schedule refers to establishing environmental standards for nappies, because it is imperative that the standards and characteristics of so-called “environmentally friendly” nappies are defined. That will help prevent disposable nappy companies from talking about eco-friendly nappies that are anything but that; they still end up in landfill, where they can take an astonishing 300 years to break down. The 33 billion nappies each year that go to landfill produce 7 million tonnes of waste, so this is a serious problem for the environment. To prevent disposable nappy companies from peddling clear falsehoods about their products, the scheme would require characteristics such as “reusable”, “biodegradable”, “eco-friendly” and “environmentally friendly” all to be defined, which is currently not the case. That will impact on how those companies can advertise and market their products and will help consumers making environmentally conscious decisions.

Magnus Smyth of TotsBots has been clear on the importance of defining these terms. He says:

“The environmental claims made by manufacturers of single-use nappies can be misleading and families deserve to know the truth.”

I am sure we would agree with that. Consumers are currently bombarded with information about hundreds of products on the market, all with different benefits and so-called “environmentally friendly” claims, so it is imperative that the UK Government help parents make informed consumer decisions.

Lastly, my new schedule 1 outlines that the relevant national authority will be undertaking actions to prepare a report on the steps taken

“to encourage local authorities to operate schemes to—

promote the use of reusable nappies, and

reduce nappy waste.”

When drafting and preparing this report for local authorities, the national authority would have to consult

“(a) operators of existing reusable nappy schemes,

(b) local authorities involved in those schemes,

(c) parents who have participated in such schemes,

(d) manufacturers of reusable nappies.”

The consultation period will help ensure that the eventual scheme to encourage the use of reusable nappies is as effective as possible.

We are currently in a climate emergency, so we must look seriously at all areas of our lives where we are adversely contributing to the global environmental disaster. Parents around the world will use nappies every day; it is therefore incredibly important that such an essential item for families does not continue to damage the environment. With millions of disposable nappies now in landfill, we have the opportunity to make a change. The babies in nappies today will inherit the world that we leave for them, and we owe it to that future generation to do all we can to protect their planet and pass on a better legacy.

The amendments that I have outlined clearly show the advantages of properly defining the environmental standards for reusable nappy products, as well as how important the schemes that promote them are. I hope that the Government take this opportunity to support my amendments; they are a small step towards helping families make more environmentally conscious decisions, and I commend them to the House.

Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In this second debate on the Environment Bill, I will speak to my amendment on air quality and in support of the amendment moved by the Opposition Front Bench.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has done three inquiries on air quality in the last five years, and we are just about to publish our new air quality report. We need cleaner air across the UK, particularly in the hotspots of our cities, to improve public health. The Government are starting to take this issue very seriously, and I am glad that we have a clean air strategy that aims to cut air pollution significantly.

I am also pleased that the Bill places a duty on the Government to set two air quality targets by October 2022, one of which is for particulate matter in ambient air. However, we can and should act sooner, with an ambitious target. PM2.5 is one of the most dangerous particulates because of its size, which means that it can be deposited in our lungs. The covid-19 pandemic has also likely resulted in a new cohort of people with ongoing breathing problems who may be more vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution. That is why I tabled my amendment on PM2.5. My amendment has cross-party support and seeks to put World Health Organisation guidelines for particulate matter into law, with an attainment deadline of 2030 at the latest. Ministers have said in the past that we should not accept such an amendment because we can be even more ambitious; so why not put the target in law today and then improve it afterwards, if we can do better?

It is important to work practically across the Government to improve air quality, because an ambitious target by itself is not going to fix the issue. In 2018, we did a Select Committee inquiry across four Select Committees to show how this issue can be solved by joined-up policy. DEFRA, the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government, the Department for Transport and the Treasury need to work closely on this issue, and I believe that they are starting to do so.

The Government are now investing huge amounts of money in greener transport including electric cars. I welcome the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. With more ultra-low emissions vehicles, we need more charging stations, rapid chargers and other incentives to build confidence and help people to switch over to electric cars in the next decade. Road transport is one of the biggest causes of poor air quality, so this will help to reduce nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide in the air we breathe.

We also need more walking and cycling in urban areas, because it is not just the fuel that is dangerous, but tyre wear and brakes. That is why I am glad that more help is being given to local authorities so that they can plan and implement clean air zones. I know that Bath and North East Somerset Council is meant to be introducing a clean air zone in March, with Birmingham City Council doing the same in June. But in Bristol, for example, the Mayor has no control of the M32, which goes straight through the middle of the city, because it is run by Highways England. This is exactly why we need a joined-up approach across Government to solve the issue of poor air quality.

The Government should amend the Bill, and accept this cross-party amendment on air quality as it comes back in the next Session. We have done so much work to improve air quality and the environment already. I know that the Minister is passionate about this issue. Let us not go backwards. Let us go the extra mile and put ambitious air quality targets in law today.

Bill Wiggin Portrait Bill Wiggin (North Herefordshire) (Con) [V]
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I tabled new clause 3 to draw attention to the environmental challenge and penalties facing Herefordshire. First, let me be absolutely clear: nobody wants to see more pollution or phosphates in the river—nobody. However, due to the levels of phosphate in the Wye, we have an ill thought out and ineffective housebuilding moratorium, imposed on us by a Dutch court through EU law. Implemented in October 2013, this moratorium was enacted to try to address the phosphate pollution in the Rivers Wye and Lugg. This is a serious issue that requires proper and effective action. It was hoped that Herefordshire Council, Natural England and the Environment Agency, and their Welsh equivalents, could come up with a tangible solution by which the threat could be stopped. After recent calls that I have had with these bodies, it is clear that there is still some way to go. I therefore tabled this new clause to have the subject heard in the House.

The threat of phosphates in watercourses is well known. Herefordshire is by no means alone, nor is it the worst polluted area in the country. Indeed, the river winds its way out of Powys into Herefordshire, then back into Monmouthshire where it forms the border with Gloucestershire, yet only Herefordshire has a moratorium. In the Environment Agency’s 2017 “State of the environment” report, 86% of English rivers had not reached good ecological status. High phosphate levels in the water can result in toxic algal blooms. These blooms deplete oxygen levels in the water by blocking out the light, resulting in fish and other organisms dying. The phosphates enter the watercourse through two primary means, the first being point source, where the main offender tends to be the sewage outlets—so called because it can generally be traced back to a wastewater pipe that is discharging into the river. The second means is diffuse sources, typically caused by run-off from agricultural land.

The ruling in Herefordshire occurred as a result of an EU legal case. On 7 November 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union gave its judgment in two joined cases, which were related to the habitats directive and became known as the Dutch nitrogen case, or simply the Dutch case. The case in the Netherlands found that through their fertiliser application techniques, farmers were having a negative effect on EU-protected habitats. Assessments were required to be carried out to determine how to reverse and prevent further environmental damage. As a result of this ruling in a different country, Natural England updated its legal advice, which has since created significant problems for house builders in England, particularly those in Herefordshire.

This ruling has disproportionately affected the River Wye and the River Lugg. The Wye is a special area of conservation; the Lugg is a tributary of the Wye, and is designated as a site of special scientific interest. The Wye is the fourth longest river in England, and is home to plants such as water-crowfoot and wonderful Atlantic salmon stocks. It is a wonderful river that we need to protect for the future, and the way that that is being done at the moment is ineffective. It is by no means the worst-performing river in the country when it comes to phosphate pollution, and this problem can and must be solved. We have had meetings with the council, the Environment Agency, and Natural England and its Welsh equivalents. We need collaboration, and we need to make sure that the Government will support an improvement to the phosphate levels so that we can get our river back to where it needs to be.

James Davies Portrait Dr James Davies (Vale of Clwyd) (Con) [V]
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It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire (Bill Wiggin). As I indicated on Second Reading in February last year, I very much support the Bill and the focus that the Government are placing on our environment.

In February, I referred to flooding that had recently occurred in my constituency. Very regrettably, I must report that the heavy rainfall of Storm Christoph has brought further disruption to local residents and businesses. Last Wednesday, high waters flowing down the River Clwyd destroyed the 19th-century Llanerch bridge, connecting Trefnant and Tremeirchion. I have already raised the issue of that bridge’s future with my hon. Friend the Minister, the local authority, and the Welsh historic environment service, Cadw. Such devastating events highlight the need for serious consideration of issues relating to water management. Increasing the responsibility of water companies and local authorities to plan how to manage flood risk more effectively is one way to reduce the impact of future floods, and I ask the Government to seriously consider the value of amendment 42, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Sir Charles Walker).

I am pleased that the Bill further contributes to the Government’s commitment to tackle air pollution. Clean air zones and the clean air strategy are important, as are the provisions in this Bill, but I believe that more can, and perhaps should, be done. A number of amendments that have been tabled seek to push the Government to improve air quality, including new clause 6 and amendment 2. The legal duty set out in the Bill to set a target for concentrations of the fine particulate matter known as PM2.5 could reduce the 36,000 annual deaths in Britain, primarily through cardiovascular and respiratory disease, that are linked to air pollution. Air quality will improve as a consequence of our national move towards net zero by 2050, but setting a bold target can act as an important driver in the interim.

Many believe that the Government’s targets should match existing WHO guidelines and that this should be achieved by 2030. As the Bill stands, the Secretary of State will commission independent expert advice on an appropriate target. I would suggest that those advising the WHO are perhaps the most qualified that there are, and I would gently press the Minister to ensure that we set ambitious targets rather than convenient ones. A 2030 deadline would be yet another commitment that we could point to, showing that the UK was leading the world on environmental standards.

I acknowledge that setting targets is an easier task than achieving them, but another goal that the Government can set is on plastic reduction. As new clause 8 seeks to acknowledge, reduction of the use of new materials is important. However, more pressing still is the agenda promoted by new clause 11—namely, the setting of either long-term or short-term targets for the sale of single-use plastics. The key to meeting any single-use plastics target could be an efficient deposit return scheme. However, at a meeting with me last year, British Glass raised concerns that in Germany, Finland and Croatia, the inclusion of glass in deposit return schemes had led to an overall increase in the use of plastics. Such outcomes in UK would, of course, be disappointing. Delivery of a DRS could also be supported through the use of technology. In December, I wrote to the Minister inquiring about the use of barcodes and mobile phone apps to deliver a digital DRS, which could help to reduce street litter. I would value further engagement on this important issue.

In the year that we host COP26 and chair the G7, this Bill is essential to show the United Kingdom’s true commitment to the environment. I hope that Ministers will consider the well-intentioned amendments that I have spoken about, and I trust that progress on the remaining stages of the Bill will be swift.

John McDonnell Portrait John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab) [V]
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I want to speak briefly in support of amendments 2 and 25 and new clause 6, all of which seek to tackle the health crisis caused by the current levels of air pollution. For my constituents living in a permanent air pollution blizzard, surrounded by Heathrow airport, the M4, the M25, the Uxbridge Road and the A40, this is literally a matter of life and death, and we have the threat of a third runway making matters worse.

The air pollution levels in my area are among the worst in the country and consistently above levels that are considered safe. The result is, of course, high levels of respiratory disease. At one stage, this reached such epidemic levels that I recall special arrangements having to be introduced in one of our primary schools for pupils to hand in their inhalers as they arrived in class, and courses were introduced for teachers across our borough in how to deal with asthmatic attacks and respiratory problems in pupils. But we know so much more now in my community about the impact of air pollution. It is not just about respiratory problems; it is the cause of heart disease among many of us, as well as cancers and, tragically for our children, even the risk of impeding their physical development.

The modest amendments that we propose today simply enhance our ability to tackle the air pollution epidemic. They set realistic targets. They require Government Departments to work together and they ensure through regular reports to Parliament that we can monitor their implementation. They also inject a sense of urgency into a programme of action to overcome the mounting threat of air pollution. The air my constituents breathe every day is poisoned by air pollution. It is killing us. Knowing as we do the tragic health impacts of air pollution, we have a responsibility to legislate to protect not only my constituents but communities across the country. That is what these amendments can assist us in doing.

Failure to act decisively now will render the Government and Parliament culpable of an appalling dereliction of duty, and future generations will simply fail to comprehend why we did not take the necessary action in this legislation. I urge Ministers to work with us on this and to accept the amendments and the new clause. Let us tackle this ongoing, life-threatening hazard once and for all. We desperately need this legislation to be effective this time round. It has already been delayed. We cannot wait any longer. Too many people are suffering ill-health and risking their lives. The covid pandemic has made them even more vulnerable. That is why there has to be a sense of urgency about passing this legislation, but ensuring it is complete and comprehensive so that this opportunity is not wasted.

Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne [V]
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It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell). I thank him for his support for my private Member’s Bill, which I will touch on briefly. But my thanks primarily go to the Minister, who was generous while talking about my campaigning efforts to improve the water quality of our rivers, which I wish to talk about under part 5 and, in particular, in support of amendment 3 to clause 82 and amendment 42 to clause 78.

It has been clear to me for many years, but particularly this year as I have been campaigning to improve water quality by reducing sewage pollution to our rivers, how significant this issue has tragically become. Many people have been in touch with me through campaigning groups, all urging the Government to get behind my Bill.

I was delighted on Friday, when I was unable to be in the Chamber to debate my private Member’s Bill because sittings had been suspended, that as something of a consolation prize the Minister announced the Government’s support for the aims of my Bill. I look forward to a second consolation from the unfortunate development today—we hear that the Environment Bill will be deferred until the next parliamentary Session. I invite the Minister to use that time to work with me to bring into the appropriate legislative and regulatory space the many measures in my Bill that have significant support: they have support from 135 Members of this House today, on both sides of the House. I hope that, when she responds to the debate, she will give some encouraging noises to give me hope that that will happen. I am also grateful to her for establishing the storm overflows taskforce, which is the mechanism through which she is seeking to get advice from industry and campaigning groups to try to identify the measures that need to be undertaken.

Through the Environmental Audit Committee, we have launched an inquiry into water quality and we will be providing recommendations to the Government. The delay may mean that we are in a position to provide some recommendations through that Committee prior to the Bill appearing in the other place. I very much hope that the Minister will be able to use this time to introduce relevant amendments to the Bill as it passes through the Lords. We also hope to provide some help in assessing what the suitable water targets are under the Bill, which are so welcome, through the drainage and wastewater management plans laid out in the Bill.

I support the measures that I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Sir Charles Walker) will talk about shortly. I also support the initiative of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), whose new clause 4 is widely supported by my constituents, not least members of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, which is based in my constituency. It acknowledged the inclusion in July last year of the hedgehog in the red list of endangered British mammals.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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After the next speaker, I will have to reduce the time limit for Back-Bench speeches to three minutes, but with four minutes, I call Sir Charles Walker.

Charles Walker Portrait Sir Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con)
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Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker. I rise to speak to my amendment 3 to clause 82, which is signed by me and 16 colleagues, and which has also secured support from other speakers tonight. The Minister said that I was going to give an impassioned speech. I am afraid I am not, because it has been so easy doing business with her. Is not it wonderful in this place when we can sit down with Ministers and do business?

Before I move on, I would like to thank some chalk stream campaigners: Paul Jennings of the River Chess; Charles Rangeley-Wilson; Dr Jonathan Fisher; Jake Rigg of Affinity; Richard Aylard of Thames Water; and of course the Angling Trust and Fish Legal.

To support rich biodiversity, chalk streams need two things: high flows and high-quality water. A lot of debate in this place centres on rewilding, and rewilding often centres on beavers—wonderful little creatures; I knew a lot of them when I was in Oregon—but the fact of the matter is that proper rewilding of our chalk streams requires good-quality water, and plenty of it. Without those two things, we do not have freshwater shrimp and fly life at the bottom of the food chain, we do not have trout and grayling, we do not have water voles and we do not have otters.

Clause 82 provides the Secretary of State with powers to modify abstraction licences without compensation where

“the ground for revoking or varying the licence is that the Secretary of State is satisfied the revocation or variation is necessary—

(i) having regard to a relevant environmental objective, or

(ii) to otherwise protect the water environment from damage.”

Our amendment would add the words

“including damage from low flows.”

The Secretary of State and the Minister at the Dispatch Box today said that they could not accept that amendment because it might limit the scope of the clause, and I understand that. However, I received a welcome letter from the Secretary of State and the Minister on 25 January, and that letter made it clear that the accompanying guidance to the Bill once it becomes an Act, in giving life to the legislation, will make it clear that—I quote from the Ministers’ letter—“the reference to damage includes damage caused by low flow levels in a river due to unsustainable abstraction.”

That is an important commitment. I have discussed it with the water companies—with Water UK, which is their representative body—and they are very keen for that guidance to be issued. They want to do the right thing. In doing the right thing, they will have to have negotiations with Ofwat, and they will need to be able to point to guidance that has legal force in support of their position.

Steve Brine Portrait Steve Brine
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As a fellow signatory of amendment 3, I congratulate my hon. Friend on getting that commitment. He knows that I am fortunate to have the River Itchen in my constituency. This is a preventive measure. We have good flows and good-quality water, which is why we have a world-class chalk stream, and we want to keep it that way. The amendment really helps to do that, so on behalf of the River Itchen lovers, I thank the Minister very much.

Charles Walker Portrait Sir Charles Walker
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I thank my hon. Friend for making that intervention, which is important. Sixteen people signed the amendment along with me, and my hon. Friend, who is a doughty campaigner for the Itchen, was one of those valuable signatories.

In the time left, I will refer briefly to my other amendment, amendment 42 to clause 78, with regard to drainage and sewerage management plans, regulations and procedures. I tipped the Minister off that I would raise this briefly. The amendment seeks to deliver the National Infrastructure Commission’s recommendation that water companies and local authorities should publish plans to manage surface water flood risk. In short, it seeks to ensure that everyone operating drains or pushing water into rivers, and all flood risk management authorities, such as the Environment Agency and local authorities, co-operates and shares information on the preparation of drainage and wastewater management plans. The water companies want to make sure that this is a team effort. Lots of nasty stuff goes into our rivers from a lot of different places. The water companies want to get on top of the situation and to work with other agencies to make sure that happens.

I conclude by thanking the Minister for how she has dealt with me and the other signatories to amendment 3. It has been an exemplar of how to do business with Back-Bench Members of Parliament.

Rosie Duffield Portrait Rosie Duffield (Canterbury) (Lab) [V]
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We have lost many of the safety nets provided by membership of the European Union. This skeletal, post-Brexit Environment Bill is somewhat disappointing, unambitious and the opposite of progressive, but it is currently the only mechanism we have in Parliament to protect basic standards and try to build on them. This is not—nor should it be —a partisan political issue; it is an issue for every single human being. It has therefore been reassuring to hear of the many important amendments from Members from all parties.

If I was to represent my constituents’ many concerns in this debate, I would have to speak for several hours, not the few minutes we have been allocated. I represent a beautiful part of Kent that has a varied coastal and rural geography and is home to several farmers and wine producers. Our farmers work hard to uphold the highest standards of environmental responsibility, and my constituents are in regular contact about wildlife, protecting our vital pollinators, the unethical concreting over of our precious green spaces and the short-sightedness of building on floodplains.

In May 2019, Parliament declared an environmental emergency. Although this is obviously partly due to events beyond the control of Parliament, it feels at times as though we are plodding towards any meaningful change, when we should be racing at full speed against the clock to stop the devastating damage that climate change is wreaking on our planet. Adults around the world make and change laws, yet it is children who are dragging us to do so—crying out for us to notice that we have a duty to protect those who will have custody of the world after we are gone. I am talking about children such as Greta, who has led a global network of young people and become a household name.

Another child we remember today is Ella Kissi-Debrah. I am glad that her name will yet again be in Hansard, but deeply sad about and ashamed of why that is. Instead of being remembered as the bright and happy nine-year-old girl her mother Rosamund tells us about, Ella should now be 17-year-old young woman thinking about the next stage of her education and looking forward to and embracing adult life. But that opportunity was stolen from her as her little lungs gulped in a toxic cocktail of lethal pollutants. All she was doing was breathing. Her mother has battled to get a verdict from the coroner that proves how poisonous the air that our children breathe actually is. We need to support the amendments that promote improvements in air pollution —we need to get behind those amendments—so I urge all colleagues to vote to improve air quality and protect any more Ellas and the children who will inherit this planet from us.

Virendra Sharma Portrait Mr Virendra Sharma (Ealing, Southall) (Lab) [V]
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The Government do not seem to appreciate the dire position we are in, for although our air is far cleaner today than at any point in our lives, some communities have not seen the benefits. My constituency is one of them. We know that deprivation and race make us more susceptible to pollution. We in Ealing, Southall are suffering because of that and, cruelly, the system keeps making things worse. This is a matter of justice and equity.

Last week, at the communities of colour meeting on air pollution, I met Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, a woman driven to secure change for her daughter Ella, who was killed by pollution. Her story is a powerful one that is sadly repeated all too often across the country, because there is never really a safe limit for air quality. Sadly, the most polluting activities tend to be left in the worst of places.

Campaigns such as CASH—Clean Air for Southall and Hayes—in my constituency are saying no and holding us all to account. For thousands living near the gasworks, this is an issue of equity. That is why action must be targeted on the areas with the most polluted air today. People are dying and this Government deny the problem.

Environmental justice has to be available to all, or it is available to no one. Please, Ministers, act so that the Environment Agency can. Act so that Public Health England can. You can give justice to thousands who are without it today. Your Government say that pollution contributes to more than 30,000 excess deaths a year. Ella’s is just one story in thousands. Act for all of them.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con) [V]
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I speak as chairman of the all-party group on the packaging manufacturing industry, an important part of the UK economy with sales of £11 billion and 85,000 employees, representing 3% of the workforce, and I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

Packaging performs an important function. It is part of the delivery system within complex logistics to enable products to get safely and efficiently from the point of production to the consumer for use or consumption, and it has an important role in preventing damage in transit and extending the life of food products by keeping them fresher for longer. The industry is keen to ensure that the environmental impact of its product is minimised through, first, more recycling of all the materials used in packaging, and that should be carried out within the UK; and, secondly, reductions in the amount of packaging ending its life in the wrong place, which we know as litter, whether that is in the UK or in our oceans. For these reasons, I welcome the provisions in the resources and waste chapter of the Bill, but with so many of them contained in secondary legislation, I wonder whether I can ask for clarity from the Minister on a number of measures.

Will there be continued consultation with the industry on these measures, and will the Minister ensure that the UK industry can continue to remain competitive? There is no merit in simply transferring packaging manufacture overseas. On extensions to producer responsibility, we know that retailers and manufacturers will pay a bigger proportion—in fact, many times more—of the cost of recycling and disposing of packaging, a cost that previously fell on local councils. It is argued that that moves the burden from the taxpayer to the polluter, but it is not the packaging manufacturer that is the polluter—people are—and I hope that improved education and awareness of the local environment will accompany these measures.

We welcome the introduction of a deposit return scheme, but will the Minister confirm that this will be a UK-wide scheme, including Scotland, so that manufacturers do not have to carry two separate sets of stock? Will she advise whether there will be a single deposit, regardless of container size? Can she ensure that we will not simply divert recycling that currently takes place on the kerbside to the DRS? Will she ensure that we include consistent household recycling, including plastic films and flexibles? We know that different local authorities collecting different things has led to very substantial confusion, with only 14% of councils currently collecting flexible materials.

I look forward to the Minister’s clarification on many of these items in her winding-up speech at the end of the debate.

Feryal Clark Portrait Feryal Clark (Enfield North) (Lab) [V]
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I support all the amendments put forward by my hon. Friends the Members for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) and for Newport West (Ruth Jones) on air quality. The World Health Organisation has clearly stated that 40 of our towns are breaking the WHO limit for air pollution. We also know that 60% of people in England are living in areas where levels of toxic air pollution exceeded legal limits last year. We know that severe air pollution costs lives, with over 40,000 deaths a year being linked to air pollution.

The impacts of air pollution are not evenly distributed, either, with a disproportionate impact on deprived areas. Research has shown that those living in deprived areas are exposed to higher concentrations of air pollution, often because their homes are situated next to roads with higher concentrations of emissions. The Marmot report also highlighted that individuals in deprived areas suffer more adverse health impacts than those from less deprived areas, because of higher prevalence of underlying cardio, respiratory and other diseases. In my constituency of Enfield North we see the direct effect of poor air quality. In the Borough of Enfield, 6.6% of deaths are attributed to exposure to particulate matter 2.5 pollution. That means that 178 deaths per year in Enfield are linked to long-term exposure to toxic air pollution.

Despite the work of proactive local authorities, pioneering new initiatives like school streets, parklets, low-traffic neighbourhoods or the 60-acre Enfield Chase woodland created by the Labour-run Enfield Council planting almost 200,000 trees, and the work of Mayor of London in introducing the ultra low emission zone, action cannot just take place at a local level; it needs to be backed by national and international legislation. It is too important not to be.

These amendments on air pollution, which I am urging the Government to support today, do not represent a radical step but the bare minimum that we must do as a country. The impact of the amendments would be to establish the WHO legal standard. In the fight against coronavirus, we have shown that working in partnership with international colleagues is vital. Addressing air quality and protecting the environment is no different. We have the opportunity to set the country forward on a course that will protect lives and advocate stronger environmental protections. This is not just an issue about public health; it is something that impacts our daily lives. We must vote in support of these amendments to ensure that we lead the way, instead of hiding away.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Ah— Jerome Mayhew. I had just been informed that he did not want to take part in the debate, but I see that he is there.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con) [V]
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Madam Deputy Speaker, please would you accept my apologies for the confusion that I have managed to cause?

I wish to speak on new clause 6 and amendments 3 and 30 and—if I am permitted by you—to make significant reference to amendment 39, although we have already voted on it.

New clause 6 deals with air quality. I absolutely recognise the challenge of poor air quality, and a number of hon. Members have spoken very movingly about it during the debates this afternoon and this evening, but I am not sure how the creation of an annual policy statement to the House is the best way to address that. We already have a range of existing reporting requirements available to Ministers, as well as two new ones contained in the Bill. They include a new requirement for the Secretary of State to make an annual statement to Parliament on local pollution objectives, in addition to publishing a national air quality strategy every five years.

Amendments 3 and 30 both deal with water quality—with flow rates—and again there is a suggestion that an annual report on water abstraction would be an effective way of improving standards. I question whether that is the right way to approach the subject. When requirements are introduced for such onerous statements, they are effective in increasing costs and increasing delay and the bureaucracy of Government, but I am not sure that they are effective on the ground.

In my constituency of Broadland I am lucky enough to have a number of chalk streams, including the Stiffkey and the Wensum, and I have experience of the Environment Agency and its approach to water extraction licences. To my mind, a much more effective way of policing the area of water abstraction and flow is to use the powers already given to the Environment Agency to deal with abstraction licences—I hope, in co-operation and collaboration with abstractors, which include farmers. I declare my interest as a director of a farming business.

Finally I should like to turn to amendment 39, because its target was very squarely the sugar beet growers and the sugar beet processors of the east of England. EU law has rightly allowed for short-term exemptions to the rules on plant protection products in the event of a virulent outbreak of disease. This year, that is exactly what we have had with virus yellows, so I think the Government are entirely right to allow the exemption with a huge number of protections for bees and other pollinators. To require an obstructive vote in the House would be a backward step.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Order. I did not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman but, no, it is not in order for him to have spoken to amendments contained in the previous group. It is not in order. I make the point because I could not reasonably interrupt him under the circumstances under which we are working, but we do expect Members to stick to the rules and not to bend them just because we are working virtually. It is important to keep standards.

I call Barry Sheerman.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op) [V]
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Thank you for calling me from Huddersfield, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have been involved in the environmental campaigning sector for all my political parliamentary career, and I have learned the hard lesson that if we do not have good science working purposefully in partnership with the private sector right across the spectrum and building coalitions, we do not get the action that we need.

Today, I am saddened that there will be a further delay in the Environment Bill coming into a living reality. I believe that it is the right of children and all of us in this country to breathe clean air, to have pure water, to be able to swim in the rivers and streams, and to have healthy soil that has not been contaminated and degraded. We could achieve some good purposes in partnership, and I call for that partnership to have great leadership. Sometimes I am not sure whether there is enough purpose, partnership and leadership in this present Government. I remember too many articles in a certain well-known magazine, The Spectator, which always seems to feature climate change doubters. The fact of the matter is that many of them have been proven absolutely wrong by good science and the work led by David Attenborough.

We need to do things at home, in our constituencies. As chair of the Westminster Commission for Road Air Quality, I can tell the House today that we are launching a constituency service that gives the quality of air in every constituency, along with the number of electric vehicles, the number of charging points and a whole range of criteria, so that Members know just how the polluted air in their constituencies is affecting their constituents.

We need to roll up our sleeves and get this sorted out. When I came into Parliament, we were known as the dirty person of Europe, and we were burying all our waste in holes in the ground. We have moved on through good science, good partnership and working together. I am an optimist and I think we can sort climate change, but we will not do it unless we get purposeful and determined leadership in this country.

Laura Farris Portrait Laura Farris (Newbury) (Con) [V]
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This Bill is so much more than the sum of its parts. It is best described as a prism through which the panoply of wider environmental policies, many of which will be a key part of the covid recovery response, should be viewed. Whether we are talking about phasing out petrol vehicles, encouraging cycling or planting trees, this Bill creates the framework through which targets can be set and the environmental benefits can be measured. For the first time, air quality and water quality are not just afterthoughts but are at the heart of policy making.

I want to pay tribute to some of the environmental groups in my constituency: Action for the River Kennet for the transformational work that it has done on chalk streams, and the West Berkshire Climate Action Network and the West Berkshire Green Exchange for all that they do.

First, I would like to address water quality. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne) for his private Member’s Bill, which places statutory obligations on water companies that are discharging sewage into rivers. Obviously, his private Member’s Bill dovetails neatly with amendments 3 and 42, proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Sir Charles Walker). Although the Government have not said exactly what they want on this, I am very grateful to the Minister for her correspondence last night and her general tone, which makes it clear that the Government are in broad agreement.

This is an issue that is very close to my heart. In the last year, we have had terrible flooding in the eastern part of my constituency at Eastbury, but particularly Lambourn, where sewage has floated up to the road surface, run along a road past the children’s school and then flowed freely into the River Lambourn, which is one of our most treasured chalk streams. One of my early experiences as a new MP was just how difficult I found it to get any real remedy for my constituents when that happened.

Finally, I would like to talk about air pollution, which we know poses the biggest environmental hazard to public health. I understand the sentiment that sits behind new clause 6, which was proposed by the Opposition, asking the Government to publish an annual policy statement setting out what they and local authorities plan to do, but I think it is superfluous for three reasons. First, setting targets is already embedded in clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill. Secondly, the Secretary of State already creates an obligation on themselves to declare whether the significant improvement test in relation to air quality has been met under clause 8. Finally, there is the establishment of the Office for Environmental Protection, which is not just an oversight body, but has real teeth and powers of enforcement, so the Government are not marking their own homework in this regard.

Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall (Totnes) (Con)
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I had high hopes of being able to start my speech by speaking the words of Margaret Thatcher in 1989 when she addressed the United Nations on the issue of climate change—she outlined the destruction and damage that was facing the world unless action was taken—but, sadly, there is not enough time to be able to read out the full quotation. However, those words are true now, and there is more that can be done.

I welcome the Government’s announcement today, their report and their Bill for what they do in addressing waste, water and air quality. These are all things that, as a triumvirate, must be addressed so that we are able to regain our control over the environment and help it to flourish in years to come. Of course, the Government have already set a number of ambitious targets—from net zero for 2050 to ending the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030, eradicating gas boilers, planting more trees and looking at new agricultural regenerative techniques. These are the ambitious things that we must do.

I would like to start by talking a little bit about waste. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder) has already mentioned, there is an important element here about ending single-use plastics, but we can do more. I ask whether the Government might consider incentivising businesses to ensure that we have full-cycle plastics that are used from cradle to grave, and then recycled. We can incentivise the industries that pollute this world to make sure that they are adhering more to the rules and regulations of countries across the world.

In my own constituency, air quality has remained an incredibly important issue. The A385 runs through my patch, next to a school, which has some of the highest levels of pollution in south Devon, and planning development alongside it is likely to further add to that problem. It is the same in Brixham, where the new Inglewood development would see roads and traffic increased, leading to further pollution of air quality. These are the things that we must take into account when we are building, improving infrastructure and developing for our entire community.

On water, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne) has done so impressively well on his private Member’s Bill, something I have supported since I coming to this place. I look forward to seeing what he brings back to the House and how the Government work further with him, but as a keen swimmer all year round—without a wetsuit, I hasten to add—I am very keen that we do all we can to improve the quality of our waterways and of our coastline, and to ensure that we are able to improve the way in which we engage on these issues, especially with groups such as Surfers Against Sewage.

The need to be able to discuss how reports might be put into this place was raised under new clause 6, but I would say that we do have the Environment Agency reports that come to Parliament and are reported on, but we also have the OEP, which I think is very welcome as it enables us to take a hold on our environment and improve it.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron [V]
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On the air quality amendments, the targets in this Bill do not even meet those recommended by the World Health Organisation, as has been said by other Members. That should rightly alarm all of us, especially given that the UK has such a terrible track record in recent years. When we were a member of the EU, it fined us regularly for failing to meet the targets set at that point. Air quality standards are of the utmost importance, and for the Government to under aim and be under-ambitious here is deeply troubling. We are being asked to accept not only decreased air quality standards, but delayed standards, as this Bill is pushed back once again, after years of delay. Yet, tragically, we now increasingly see “poor air quality” cited as a cause of death on the death certificates of many, many people. As many colleagues from both sides of the House, have said, this is a matter of life and death, Delayed action at this time, in the hiatus between the strong targets and standards we had up to the end of 2020 and the point at which we get whatever standards we will get when this Bill is finally agreed, allows bad habits to build up and bed in, and it makes Britain’s poor air quality harder still to clear up.

On waste, the absence of plastic reduction targets beggars belief, given the rhetoric we have heard from many in the Government. The Conservative manifesto made a specific reference—a promise even—to

“ban the export of plastic waste”

to developing countries. The Government have broken that promise. So not only are they not tackling our plastic problem here at home, but we are adding to the plastic problem of poorer countries overseas.

My amendment 30 related to water quality. We simply want the Government to monitor the impact of the abstraction of water on biodiversity in chalk streams and in other waterways. This Bill does not do that, and it is a simple and obvious request. Only 14% of England’s rivers and lakes are in a good quality water position at the moment, so the need for this measure is clear.

So we see an unambitious Bill and a delay, which means even this poor ambition will be hard to bring to fruition, given that we will have to wait many months. This takes commitment to underachievement to new heights, undermining the quality of our environment and animal welfare. These are times when we need to be setting clear and ambitious targets if we are going to lead the world, but I am afraid that we are lagging far behind.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con)
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It has been a pleasure to serve on the Environmental Audit Committee and discuss a number of topics that form part of this landmark Environment Bill through our inquiries. Our Chair, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne), has campaigned tirelessly for better water quality and no doubt through his work we have in this Bill sewerage undertakers now being required to produce a statutory drainage and sewerage management plan to actively address environmental risks such as sewer overflows and their impact on water quality.

Without doubt, this Bill paves the way for the Government to continue putting the environment at the very heart of their decision making, with legally binding targets on biodiversity, air quality and waste efficiency just a few of a plethora of new ambitions. I was heartened by the Minister’s opening comments on plastic pollution and new clause 11. As an MP for 50 miles of stunning North Norfolk coast, I am glad that provisions in this Bill will help to reduce plastics on our beaches. This new clause would require the Secretary of State to set targets to reduce plastic pollution and reduce the volume of non-essential single-use plastic products sold. If plastic pollution continues at current rates, plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish by 2050. There is a strong public appetite for action: 63% of people want to reduce their consumption of plastic, and 77% want the Government to take more action to protect the ocean, so I am glad that this is being covered.

While on the subject of water, I want to touch on amendment 4. Since my election to this place, we have seen so often how we can strive for absolutes in an imperfect world, and that we cannot always pass legislation to deal with one problem because it will affect another. Amendment 4 tries to define the precautionary principle. In my constituency, the precautionary principle has been used as almost a get-out-of-jail-free card against farmers needing to abstract water when there have been differing levels of evidence on the extent of their activities and the resulting impact on the environment. It is a perfect case in point. Our farmers produce food. They are, in fact, one of the leading industries that will help to protect our environment through the Agriculture Bill, yet no account is taken of the balance of good in what they do when the precautionary principle is used.

We are making enormous strides to protect the environment, to decarbonise, to enhance the natural world and to improve air quality and water quality, and we can see that that is being done through the framework of this landmark Environment Bill.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner [V]
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The UK creates the second highest amount of electronic waste in the world, and we export 40% of that waste to other countries, most of them developing nations. How crazy is that, when that waste contains the rare earth metals and the other valuable metals that we need for our wind turbines, our mobile phone batteries and our car batteries? It is insanity. That is why I support new clause 8, which aims to ensure that the Secretary of State implements the waste hierarchy with specific emphasis on waste prevention, rather than simply waste management.

I turn to amendment 24. Since 2007, the REACH directive has provided a database to assess the risk of more than 21,000 chemical substances in the UK, and it obliges manufacturers to manage the risk of dangerous chemicals. This amendment is very simple. It means that there is a risk that the UK could become a dumping ground for hazardous chemicals unless we maintain the same standards that we had previously.

While talking about risk, let me turn to air quality. We have got used to understanding risk much better with covid and the statistics that we have seen every night on our television screens, but let us imagine if, on our television screens every night, we saw that in many areas of our country, one in 19 deaths can be linked to poor air quality—to air pollution. That is the level of risk. I tend to agree with what the hon. Member for Broadland (Jerome Mayhew) said about new clause 6: what difference will it make for the Secretary of State to report to Parliament once a year, given that the Government were not prepared to meet the legal obligation by 2015 and had to be taken to the Supreme Court twice? But perhaps we should at least try.

This whole Bill is about our 25-year environment plan and leaving our environment in a better state than we inherited it. That means that we have to understand the whole nexus of connections that exist. That is why the Dasgupta report coming out later this month on the economics of biodiversity and the value of natural capital is so vital, to understand that we must balance the burden of costs that each part of society pays for our public goods.

Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones (Pontypridd) (Lab) [V]
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It is an honour to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) in this important debate. Hundreds of residents from Pontypridd and across Rhondda Cynon Taff have contacted me over the last few weeks urging me to speak up today, and I know that people’s passion for the environment is certainly not limited to the south Wales valleys. I will, however, take this opportunity to mention the fantastic work that Friends of the Earth Pontypridd does to raise awareness of environmental issues; long may its work continue.

On a personal note, I am the very proud co-chair of the all-party group on water, and I sincerely hope, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you will indulge me the brief opportunity to invite and encourage Members across the House to join the all-party group today. We are always open to new members.

Members may not be aware, but my love for all things water began long before I became a Member of this House, as I was previously an employee of Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, the not-for-profit water company. Through my work, I have seen at first hand the impact of waste on our environment and also the benefits of investing in our infrastructure to ensure that we have a fit-for-purpose waste water network, both now and into the future. It is because of this that I would like to place on record my support for new clause 10, tabled in the name of my friend, the hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden). Items may be marketed as flushable, but I can assure Members that disposable nappies, wet wipes and all manner of items flushed down toilets can cause utter devastation to people’s homes and our environment.

This Environment Bill is very welcome as it could make real change that could improve our ecology both now and for future generations. I represent a constituency that was decimated by flooding nearly a year ago. Storms Jorge, Dennis, and Ciara devastated businesses in Pontypridd and they are still trying to recover. This highlights the urgency of the climate emergency that the planet is in. We can build all the flood defences possible, but unless we seek to tackle the root causes of climate change, then they will be the equivalent of King Canute trying simply to hold back the tide.

It seems quite obvious to me that the protections for our environment should be included in legislation. While I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill today, I believe that, in its current form, there are some alarming gaps. The Bill does not go far enough to replace the EU’s environmental protections, and, in its current form, the Bill allows the Secretary of State far too much discretion in changing certain environmental benchmarks or targets. That is why I am encouraged by new clause 8, tabled in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones), who is a very good friend. As previously mentioned by others, this clause would ensure that the Secretary of State has a specific responsibility to take into account the requirements of the waste hierarchy. Additionally, this clause prioritises the importance of waste prevention—a move that we should all be unanimously in support of.

I would hate for this Government to apply the same approach to some of the amendments today intended to improve our environmental protections and I hope to see cross-party support for this amendment. I urge Members across the House to support the amendments, because we must act now before is too late.

Anthony Browne Portrait Anthony Browne (South Cambridgeshire) (Con) [V]
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As chair of the all-party parliamentary environment group and as a member of the Environment Bill Committee, I very strongly welcome this Bill. As we have heard, it may not give everything that everyone wants, but it is a huge step forward in protecting the planet. I really welcome the ambition of the Government and the Minister to work towards that.

I want to focus my comments on water, which is, in many ways, at the heart of this Bill. I have three particular things. The water management schemes will help to move water from wetter parts of the country to drier parts of the country. In South Cambridgeshire and East Anglia, we are one of the driest part of the country and we need more water. I very much welcome the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne) to reduce sewage outflows into rivers. Again, I welcome the fact that the Government have introduced that in the body of this Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Sir Charles Walker) has been a champion for chalk streams and I very much welcome his amendment 3 to clause 82, which would revoke or vary abstraction licences, or give the Secretary of State the power to do so, if rivers run dry. Again, the Government have introduced that in the heart of the Bill, so more water, less sewage—what more could we want?

The reason why I focus my comments on chalk streams is that they run like a network of silver threads throughout South Cambridgeshire—the River Cam most famously, but also many of its tributaries such as the River Shep, which runs down to the RSPB reserve at Fowlmere, the village that I grew up in. I remember playing in the chalk streams as a child. They were so clear that the fish looked like they were floating in the air. The chalk streams are very rare, very beautiful and very threatened. I went back to the RSPB reserve in Fowlmere during the election campaign and it was bone dry. It was not that the chalk streams were running low; they were not there at all. I went there again recently, there was some water back in the streams, but no wildlife. The wildlife cannot survive if the streams run dry. I have been working with local campaign groups, particularly Water Resources East and Cam Valley Forum, to help save the chalk streams. I thank the Minister and her officials for their time, because I know that they have been doing a lot of work with us on that—in particular, setting up a chalk stream working group. I welcome the Government’s move to protect chalk streams by giving the Secretary of State the powers to revoke or vary licences if chalk streams run dry. That will bring a ray of hope to the chalk stream campaigners of South Cambridgeshire.

I want to leave the Government with this challenge: when Parliament votes on this Bill, it will vote to give the Government powers to save the chalk streams. If the chalk streams are threatened, I ask them please to make sure that they use those powers.

Robbie Moore Portrait Robbie Moore
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I start by referring the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I also declare that my family run and operate a plastic recycling business.

There is of course much to talk about in this Bill, but in the short time that I have, I want to talk about rivers and, in particular, improving water quality. The state of some of our rivers today is quite frankly shocking: 40% of all rivers in England and Wales are now polluted with human sewage. That not only threatens aquatic species such as trout and grayling that we might find in the River Wharfe in Ilkley in my constituency, but it is a threat to our own human health. Much praise must be given to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne) for his Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill, which is a fantastic piece of proposed legislation which, as he knows, I wholeheartedly support. I am delighted that the Government have decided to adopt it and encompass so many of its measures within this Bill. My delight also stems from my constituency, because ever since I was elected to this place in December 2019, protecting rivers and improving water quality has been a crucial priority for me.

In Ilkley, for far too long untreated sewage has been released into the River Wharfe by Yorkshire Water at times of high rainfall. We have a dedicated team at the Ilkley clean river campaign group, which has been running a long and very successful campaign to clean up rivers. I have supported them in their endeavours to do so ever since entering this place. By working together as a community, there is so much that can be achieved. My thanks go out to all who are involved in that campaign.

I am very pleased that the Government will be placing on a statutory footing an obligation on sewerage companies to make drainage and water management plans, and that the Government will be setting clear water quality targets. However, may I make a plea to the Minister as a follow-up to the many conversations that we have already had on this point? As she is aware, the Ilkley section of the River Wharfe has now been granted bathing water status—one of the highest levels of water quality anywhere in the UK. However, while I am delighted with DEFRA’s decision to grant such a mechanism for providing strict regulation to improve water quality, it is important that we recognise the difference between bathing and clean water status, as many strong undercurrents within a river can cause difficulty for swimming, as has previously happened in the Wharfe. I urge the Government, in future, perhaps to look at a rebranding of such status, as the title of bathing water status can be misleading to the public.

This a good Bill that I wholeheartedly support. I truly believe that it is the start of a greener, cleaner environment for the future of Great Britain.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Order. Something is wrong with the sound. [Interruption.] It is not possible to go to the next person until we stop the video link that is not working. Is somebody listening to me? I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for the system not working properly and for him not knowing that it was not working. We will now go to Kerry McCarthy.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy [V]
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Labour’s new clause 8 would require the Secretary of State to take account of the waste hierarchy. From food waste to plastic pollution, the starting point should be to prevent waste from occurring in the first place. I hope that when this Bill reaches the other place, we will further debate our global carbon footprint and the need to bring proposals to COP26 to measure consumption, not just production. Promoting the circular economy should be at the absolute heart of any green recovery package. At present, we have disincentives to send waste to landfill but very few mechanisms to encourage compliance further up the hierarchy, and virtually no enforcement either, because the Environment Agency simply does not have the resources to do so.

Turning to the amendments on air pollution, we have heard about the tragic death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah, and we also know that covid has left many people extra-vulnerable with long-term damage to their lungs. As we mark today the horrific milestone of over 100,000 covid deaths and many more infected, I urge the Minister to think again on this. I support adopting the target on PM2.5; the suggestion that it would prevent higher ambition is ludicrous.

The Government have for too long tried to pass the buck to local councils; what we need is a comprehensive national strategy on air pollution to prevent any further tragedies. We also need urgent action from the Government on their decarbonisation of transport plan. I do not get any sense at the moment that the Government are joining the dots.

Finally, on chemicals and animal testing, with the Prime Minister suggesting in his first post-Brexit deal interview with The Telegraph that chemicals was one area where the UK could diverge from EU regulations, it is hardly surprising that people are deeply worried by the Secretary of State being given such sweeping powers to amend the legal framework. It leaves us wide open to the risk of damaging deregulation as a result of trade deals with countries with weaker systems and lower standards such as the United States of America, and the risk of the dumping of products on the UK market that fail to meet EU regulations. Amendment 24 would ensure non-regression from REACH, the EU regime, and allow scope to exceed those standards. A recent European Court of Justice ruling has reaffirmed that under REACH the principle of animal testing as a last resort must be fully respected and it is good that this is included as a protected principle in the Bill, but this is not reflected in current figures for animal testing; there is far too much duplication of testing and far too little data sharing. New clause 18 would require the Secretary of State to set targets to reduce animal testing and the suffering experienced by animals as a result, and I would thoroughly support that.

Let us not just agree to keep our current standards in this Bill, but try to raise our ambitions too.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
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The film “Dark Waters” shows just what goes wrong, with the disastrous consequences for human life, animal life, plant life and pollution, where there is a lack of regulation in the chemicals industry. Mark Ruffalo brilliantly played the lawyer who took on the might of DuPont and won on behalf of so many who were disadvantaged.

Of course, in this country we benefit from the highest chemical standards in the world—the previous regime made sure of that—and the industry rightly wants to maintain those standards and indeed build upon them. The industry in this country is worth £31.4 billion in exports and employs 102,000 people in well-paid jobs, and chemicals are in everyday products; in the Liverpool city region they are part of our car manufacturing sector and we have many fine chemical industry companies, including Blends Ltd and Contract Chemicals just a few miles outside my constituency. They want to maintain those high standards and they want to build on them; they want to build on them so that new products and services can be developed, and so that innovation in the recycling of plastics can be enhanced. To deliver on that agenda, they need the support of the Government through this Bill.

Unfortunately, we have already seen standards weakened through the changes to UK REACH, and powers in this Bill will give the Government the opportunity to further reduce them, leaving open the prospect of dumping lower-standard products, undermining the excellence of the industry in this country.

Industry here wants no divergence; it wants to solve the problem of the £1 billion cost to access the database that businesses need to be able to continue producing in this country. Unless these problems are resolved, we will see an impact on that £31.4 billion of exports, with companies given no choice but to move their manufacturing capacity to the continent of Europe.

There is much at stake here; there is much at stake in maintaining and enhancing those standards for human health, for animal health, for plant life and for British jobs. The Minister said that she has a good relationship with the industry. She can demonstrate that good relationship by supporting amendment 24.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas [V]
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My new clause 13, on the application of pesticides in rural areas, follows a very similar amendment made to the Agriculture Bill in the other place. Although it was later removed by the Government during the final stages, it enjoyed wide cross-party support, as I hope this new clause will.

As it stands, the Environment Bill lists air quality, water and biodiversity as priority areas for long-term target setting, alongside waste, but it does not recognise the environmental harm caused by the use of pesticides, and the need to protect human health is omitted entirely. My new clause seeks to remedy that by requiring the Secretary of State to make regulations prohibiting the use of chemical pesticides near buildings and open spaces used by rural residents and members of the public, whether hospitals, schools or homes. That is crucial for improving air quality and protecting human health and the environment.

It is important to recognise that this is about not the misuse or illegal use of pesticides, but the approved use of crop pesticides in the locality where rural communities are present, yet there are still no specific restrictions on the contamination and pollution of the air from widespread spraying of pesticides in rural areas. Indeed, the UK’s regulatory system assesses the safety of only one chemical at a time, yet rural residents are exposed to a cocktail of harmful pesticides spread on nearby farms. Furthermore, although operators generally have protection when using agricultural pesticides, residents have absolutely no protection at all.

We cannot restore and enhance our environment while continuing to ignore the damage caused by pesticides in our intensive food and farming system. In that light, the Government should be standing up for rural residents and communities and protecting them from harm. That is what my new clause 13 seeks to do.

My new clause 18 would require the setting of targets for the reduction and replacement of animal testing under REACH regulations. It has been estimated that, by mid-2019, tests had been performed on about 2.4 million animals. In the last reporting period, the UK used the highest number of animals in experiments of any country in Europe. Although the Government have protected animal testing as a last resort principle from REACH in the Bill, this is an opportunity to go further and demonstrate real leadership by setting targets to replace animal testing.

Tests on animals are notoriously unreliable and are increasingly being questioned by the science. The scientific advancement of non-animal tests and approaches allows us better to predict hazard and manage risk while avoiding or significantly reducing the use of tests on animals—all in a shorter timeframe, with fewer resources used. That is better for human health and animals. I therefore urge the Minister to look again at this important issue and support the new clause.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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We will try to go back to Geraint Davies.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies [V]
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Thank you so much, Madam Deputy Speaker.

New clause 6 is a necessary condition of delivering World Health Organisation air quality limits, or indeed any targets that the Government choose to set by 2022, as they plan. DEFRA alone simply cannot deliver the clean air targets that the Government want without the support of all other Departments. The new clause would create a duty for all Departments to work together to do that.

When I met the Environment Secretary, the Environment Minister and Rosamund, Ella’s mother, the Environment Secretary said that he had not ruled out WHO air quality limits and needed to understand how he would get to any such targets. I agree with that, but it requires a duty on all Government bodies and Departments to work together. DEFRA would work with Transport when Transport needs to deliver an integrated, electrified public transport system. Clearly, we would need a Treasury fiscal statutory mechanism to facilitate that with the right duties, incentives, scrappage schemes and investment. We would need a housing and planning scheme built into that so that we build around stations, not motorways. We would need Health at the centre of it, because 64,000 people a year are dying prematurely. We need an education system that allows people to walk to school safely, and a local government system so that people can take account of things and possibly reduce the speed of motorway traffic near urban centres. This all needs to be by joined-up design, rather than hope for the best.

The second part of the amendment is about indoor air quality. I thank the Government for belatedly including indoor air quality in the Bill. I thank the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health for their “Inside Story” report, which acknowledged that 90% of the time we are indoors we are subjected to all sorts of dangerous chemicals—formaldehyde and all sorts of other things—in our furniture. Professor Stephen Holgate, one of the architects of the report, mentioned that we will not get limits unless we have an interdisciplinary approach with academics, clinicians, industry and government working together. Indeed, the professor of environmental law at University College London, Eloise Scotford, mentioned that joined-up governance is critical in law to push ahead with progress.

As we approach COP26, we have an opportunity to present a template of an integrated approach to help combat air pollution, which is killing 7 million people across the globe every year. I give my thanks to the Health Secretary and other members of the Government who are working together, but the point of the amendment is to provide a duty, so that we are required to work together to deliver cleaner air and save thousands of lives.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD) [V]
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We Liberal Democrats have a clear plan to cut most carbon emissions by 2030 and to get to net zero by 2045. In the context of the Bill, waste is a big carbon emitter, particularly plastic waste, and we must address the problem immediately. The Waste and Resources Action Programme’s new Plastic Pact, funded by DEFRA, is an important initiative which will create a circular economy for plastics. It is based on building a stronger recycling system, taking more responsibility for our own waste and ensuring that plastic packaging can be effectively recycled and re-used.

Last year, I tabled an amendment to the Bill. It would have perfectly fitted WRAP’s initiative, but sadly it is not in the Bill. My amendment aimed to make the reporting of the end destination of household and business waste mandatory for councils. Transparency is a great driver of change and one of the sad features of the Bill is the absence of transparency and accountability. No targets set within the Bill will be legally binding until 2037. By then, the climate crisis will be massively worse. Acting now is imperative. Climate change delay is hardly better than climate change denial.

We are proud in Bath to be one of the first councils to introduce a clean air zone. Air pollution is a big killer and hits the disadvantaged much harder due to poor housing, high-density living, proximity to main roads and fewer options to avoid higher-risk areas. What my council now needs is a separate clean air Act, which also includes new powers and funding to local authorities to effectively monitor air pollution. For instance, in Bath, residents are asking for real-time data to be made available, so that residents can make informed choices for their city and on what forms of transport they want to use.

I am ambitious for my city and for my country to show clear leadership on clean, healthy urban environments for the future. There is so much we can achieve with the right political will.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab) [V]
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I will be supporting amendment 24, but due to time I will focus my comments on new clauses 8 and 2.

The fact that the Bill has taken so long to progress through Parliament is enough to know that it is not, and never has been, a real priority of this Government. As my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) reminds us, think back to the 1970s and 1980s when we were the dirty man of Europe: the dirtiest air, the dirtiest rivers and the dirtiest beaches. Thankfully, we aligned ourselves with European legislation and higher standards. It is with that in mind that I want to address the new clauses this evening.

New clause 8 relates to the waste hierarchy, starting with the absolute priority action of prevention. I am reminded of the importance of international legislation and co-ordination. I will hold the Government to account on whether they meet EU legislation and I will press them to exceed it. Addressing waste was an important part of EU policy, establishing as it did global leadership by creating robust frameworks of different regulations and directives to improve the management of waste in EU and European Free Trade Association countries. EU policy can be separated into product-related regulations such as the waste electrical and electronic equipment directive, the end-of-life vehicles directive and the batteries directive, and legislation including the landfill directive. However, plastics are a particular concern, and it is important that we commit pre-manufacture to how parts will be recycled and address producer responsibility, as well as that of the distributors and retailers. We need to encourage supermarkets to do more; I am reminded of the Grüne Punkt, or green spot, approach in Germany. It started back in the 1990s, and it meant that supermarkets would have to take back packaging. I want to see the UK leading in this area, because it is critical.

I will also speak to new clause 2, and the issue of air quality. I support the work of the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), and commend his work on achieving cross-party agreement. Many towns do not have the infrastructure to cope with traffic: towns such as Warwick, one of the finest towns in the country, but where air quality is so poor. I commend Clean Air Warwick, and thank Jon Grey for his work. Likewise, I applaud the leadership of Sue Rasmussan with Clean Air for Leamington. But in recent years, the World Health Organisation has found that the air quality in Leamington regularly breaches safe air pollution levels. That is why the British Lung Foundation wants MPs from across the House to support this new clause: it is so important that we address the issue of PM2.5 and the World Health Organisation guidelines.

We have seen what can happen. We saw the desperately tragic case of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah—it could have happened to any child, and it makes me think of so many children and young people who walk those roads to school in my constituency. That is why these amendments and new clauses are vital: for today, but most importantly, for our children.

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Environmental Audit Committee labelled this Bill a “missed opportunity”. I rise to support amendments in the name of the Opposition and others that could make it fit for our country, in a year in which the eyes of the world are watching us as hosts of the UN COP26 conference on climate change. I only have time to address two issues: the regulation of chemicals now that we have departed from the EU, and air pollution.

I support amendment 24 in the name of the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones), to ensure we do not regress from existing standards and protections. That amendment would prevent a damaging race to the bottom that could undermine standards on chemicals, which is of great concern, given the comments the Prime Minister has made about chemicals and his indication that he may want us to depart downwards from those standards. My constituents, Tracey Logan and Richard Szwagrzak, were poisoned by formaldehyde fumes when cupboards were being built and installed in their house. We found there was no regulation covering formaldehyde levels in MDF sheets, hence the need to at least protect our existing standards and then ensure that the Government have powers to strengthen them, as amendment 24 does.

The issue of air quality is particularly important in my constituency, lying as it does along the two core routes between Heathrow and central London, and with many living in a highly polluted environment. Toxic air kills 40,000 people a year in the UK and contributes to the health inequalities that plague our society. We need to see action. Community-led efforts such as Chiswick Oasis can cut air pollution, as can city-wide programmes: an Imperial College study found that policies put in place by the Mayor of London have already led to improvements in air quality, with the measures that have been introduced increasing the average life expectancy of a child born in London in 2013. However, we need to do much more and, at a Government level, to tackle toxic air pollution. We need to see Government Ministers leading on this.

If new clause 6—which would require the Secretary of State to lay an annual report before Parliament on air quality and the solutions that the Government are going to be implementing—is moved, I will be supporting it. Crucially, that amendment calls for cross-departmental work to tackle this serious threat to our public health. This Bill has huge gaps in it, and gives Ministers sweeping powers to row back on our much-needed protections. I hope the Government will listen to concerns raised by Members across this House and use any delay to this Bill as a chance to fix it.

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson (Putney) (Lab) [V]
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I am very glad to speak today in favour of the Opposition amendments, and on behalf of the deafening voice of civil society and so many organisations and individuals across the country, including the many local members of the Putney Environment Commission in my constituency, who feel that this Bill does not go far enough.

I served on the Bill Committee last November and was disappointed that the Government did not accept any Opposition amendments, which would have improved the Bill. Today, the Minister said that

“the desperate decline of our natural environment and biodiversity has gone on for far too long.”

That is right—so why is this Bill being so delayed, and with more delays to come? How can the EU (Future Relationship) Bill be rushed through in one day, while here we are in a climate emergency—as declared by Parliament in May 2019—yet this Bill has taken a year to get to this stage and now it has been announced that the next stage will be in May? Will we even have it passed by autumn?

This leaves us without the regulation of the EU that was in place before and with no new regulator in place. Will the Minister give a final deadline date for passing this Bill, and use the time between stages to improve it? The amendments before us today would give us much-needed higher ambition through targets, and much more strength to take action on the important areas of air quality, water, waste and chemicals.

Let me turn to new clause 8. It is vital to hold producers to account to ensure that waste is prevented throughout the whole supply chain, not just at the end—for example, by reducing plastics, changing materials and rethinking product use, such as nappies.

On air pollution, Putney High Street is one of the most polluted streets in the UK, and has the poor distinction of taking places two and three in a recent table of the top 10 pollution hotspots in London. We should set our sights high and include WHO targets in the Bill, not put them up for negotiation later. The cost will be that 550,000 Londoners will develop diseases attributable to air pollution over the next 30 years if we do not take strong action.

On amendment 24 on chemical regulation and setting up a whole new regulation in the UK when we already have one, this, among many things, will mean unnecessary animal testing. Many constituents have written to me about this issue. If more constituents knew about it, they would not be happy. I hope that this can be changed and rectified before the next stage of reporting in May.

In summary, the Bill has a long way to go before it is fit for purpose. I hope that today Conservative Members finally listen, give this Bill the force and ambition that our environment desperately needs, and vote for the Opposition amendments.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD) [V]
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Like the previous Members of my party who have spoken, I shall be supporting the Opposition amendments. However, I would like to use my time to focus entirely on air pollution—a subject that is close not just to my heart, but to so many people I meet every day. It is also vital to our future and to our health, both individually and as communities.

In my constituency of Edinburgh West, we have two of the most polluted roads in Scotland, and one in every 29 deaths in our city of Edinburgh has been attributed to air pollution. Surely that is beyond unacceptable. I also have personal family reasons for knowing what a silent and merciless killer air pollution can be. Lives are blighted or even lost, and our NHS is put under yet more strain. Clean air is one of the most precious commodities that we have, and it is becoming even more precious.

For me, there is nothing that we could do that would be too much, but tinkering around the edges, as this Bill will do, is not good enough. We need to be brave and, yes, we need to start spending money. Our children are now making it abundantly clear that they do not believe that previous generations have done enough to ensure that the planet is safe for them, and they are the ones who tend to be exposed to higher levels of pollution than adults. We need to listen and act now. The Liberal Democrats’ zero carbon target is 2045; we believe that 2050 is simply too late. We need to strengthen our interim targets and undertake a 10-year emergency emission reduction programme to cut emissions as much as possible by 2030.

This legislation is a good start, but it does not have the teeth necessary to provide the robust protection for the environment that we need. If it is not to become little more than a series of meaningless platitudes, the Office for Environmental Protection and local authorities must have sufficient funding and empowerment to be effective. We need an Act modelled on the Climate Change Act 2008, with regular interim targets to cut not just air pollution but plastic pollution, and to restore nature. For me, the clean air provisions are simply not good enough. We need new legal limits that meet World Health Organisation limits, a new duty on public bodies to do their part in tackling pollution, and a new right to clean air in domestic law. All that is meaningless, however, if the reports are correct and the Bill is delayed until the next Session. More time will be lost, more people will breathe in dangerously polluted air, more damage will be done to our lives, our environment and the planet, and the chances of turning this ecological disaster around will be lost. I hope that the House will support the Opposition amendment.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins [V]
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The River Lea flows all the way through my constituency of Luton South, so I shall start by welcoming the earlier clarification stating that clause 82 should cover damage caused to chalk streams as a result of low flow, as championed by the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Sir Charles Walker). I will be supporting the Opposition Front-Bench amendments, including amendment 24 on chemical regulations, but I want to speak specifically about waste management in support of new clause 8, which will require the Secretary of State to take account of the waste hierarchy, starting with the priority action of prevention.

The waste hierarchy refers to the priority order of managing waste: prevention; preparing for reuse; recycling; other forms of recovery; and disposal. To tackle the climate and ecological emergency, there must be a preventive and focused approach to waste management. I am fully aware that the Minister has stated that the Bill enables the Government to place obligations, including targets, on producers to prevent waste, but I am concerned that the Government are refusing to explicitly put that commitment to prioritising preventive action in the Bill. The Bill should use the strongest possible language to demonstrate the UK’s commitment to preventing the creation of waste, as well as to the reusing and recycling of it.

Local government has a crucial role in waste management and in tackling unnecessary and unrecyclable material. Community-based action to shape attitudes and behaviour is vital to improving the UK’s sustainable management of waste, and bolder language would further empower councils to take stronger action.

Luton Council’s waste management strategy for 2018 to 2028 is committed to a “waste less, recycle more” plan that recognises the importance of limiting the amount of waste. As well as ensuring that the recycling process is efficient, the waste minimisation strategy has a focus on behaviour change through education, engagement and communication, including working with schools, encouraging visitors to reduce the amount of waste and maintaining waste standards. However, unprecedented budget cuts imposed by the Government’s austerity agenda over the last decade have restricted the great work that councils do to sustainably tackle waste, so I urge the Government to back Labour’s amendment, to use stronger language to tackle waste prevention and to empower our councils by providing more financial support to expand preventive waste strategies in our communities.

Richard Thomson Portrait Richard Thomson [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I want to speak to new clause 10, tabled in the name of Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru colleagues, and also to new schedule 1. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) spoke eloquently about the impact on the environment of disposable nappies, and about the sometimes misleading claims made about their environmental friendliness by the manufacturers. My partner and I decided to use cloth nappies for our children. I fully understand that, for varying reasons, that is not a decision that everyone feels able to take, or something that people can do 100% of the time, but it was a choice that worked very well for us.

New clause 10 and new schedule 1, taken together, would establish the basis on which the Government could act to address the problem of waste caused by nappies that are not reusable. Establishing clear standards for disposable nappies would help parents to make informed choices. It would provide clarity over terms such as “reusable”, “biodegradable”, “eco-friendly”, “environmentally friendly” and anything else that was put into the mix. That would help parents by making it clear what they were buying and what the impact of that choice would be. Furthermore, the schedule would, through the relevant national authorities cited, oblige the Government to begin to encourage local authorities to promote the use of reusable nappies if they do not do so already—I know that some do—and so reduce waste, by working alongside parents as well as existing schemes such as nappy libraries, which many parents find so valuable.

The waste that comes from disposable nappies is one of the biggest single environmental problems that we face, but it is also, potentially, one of the easiest for us to begin to solve through the provision of good information and good incentives from Government. To do so would be good for babies and good for the world that they grow up in. It is something that we are able to act on, and we should look to do so.

Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank all hon. Friends and Members who have taken part in the debate—the input on this groundbreaking Bill has been fantastically supportive and enthusiastic.

Let me start with new clause 8. I am pleased to report that the waste hierarchy is already embedded in law through the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011. Accordingly, the Bill has been developed with it as a guiding light. While I touch on waste, I must assure my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mark Pawsey) that consultations will shortly be launched on issues across waste reforms, including deposit returns, recycling collections and environmental permitting regulations, and we will work with packaging producers on them all.

The Secretary of State must produce a waste prevention programme and a waste management plan for England, setting out policies that apply the waste hierarchy. Waste handlers must also take reasonable measures to apply the waste hierarchy on the transfer of their waste. I hope that that reassures the many Members who touched on the waste hierarchy, waste and plastic, including my hon. Friends the Members for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall) and for North Norfolk (Duncan Baker), who both have spectacular coastlines and concerns about plastics, and the hon. Members for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) and for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western). The resource and waste measures in the Bill provide us with a range of options to tackle issues across the waste hierarchy.

Bill Committee members will have heard me talk about whether we could possibly tackle cat food pouches, which brings me neatly to nappies and the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden). I myself have experience of using reusable nappies—what a labour of love it is. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that the primary powers on resource efficiency in the Bill will give us the legislative means to act on nappies, as suggested in new clause 10 and new schedule 1. I am happy to make that clearer to the hon. Gentleman through a change to the Bill’s explanatory notes. I really hope that the hon. Member for Putney (Fleur Anderson) will also welcome that.

Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will not take any interventions because of the pressure of time, but I hope the hon. Member for Glasgow East will welcome that. I shall turn to air quality, on which so many Members and colleagues have had an input—unless the hon. Gentleman wanted to say congratulations?

David Linden Portrait David Linden
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome any baby steps, but I would also welcome any opportunity to discuss with the Minister certain aspects of labelling and packaging. I welcome the changes that she is to make to the explanatory notes, but will she agree to meet me and the Nappy Alliance to discuss the matter in the context of the next stage of the Bill?

Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I listened to what the hon. Gentleman said; of course, we will consider all these things when we come to that point.

Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will not give way again.

Let me turn to air quality, which was mentioned by so many colleagues and Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), the hon. Member for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield), the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) and the hon. Members for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma) and for Enfield North (Feryal Clark).

On new clause 6, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies), my Department is working closely with other Departments to improve air quality through the Bill. We are making it simpler for local authorities to tackle a key source of indoor air pollution—domestic burning—and strengthening the role of public authorities in tackling air pollution. The Bill requires the Secretary of State to make an annual statement to Parliament on progress towards local air quality objectives, to review regularly the national air quality strategy and to publish an environment improvement plan.

Let me turn to the use of pesticides and air quality and new clause 13. The use of pesticides is not allowed where that usage may harm people. The existing regulation (EC) No. 1107/2009 requires comprehensive scientific assessment.

Let me turn to water and new clause 3, which was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire (Bill Wiggin). Nutrient pollution from phosphates and nitrates is one of the main pressures on the water environment, with the main source being development and agriculture. Planning authorities must consider the environmental effects of increased discharges from proposed developments. By removing any need for the consideration of phosphate pollution in assessments, the new clause would threaten the protection of important wildlife sites.

I turn to amendment 3 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Sir Charles Walker). I thank him for taking the time to meet me a couple of weeks ago. Flow levels are incredibly important to the health of a river and the ecology it supports, and he is a great champion for rivers. Our new abstraction powers in clause 82 will strengthen existing powers for addressing environmental damage as a result of abstraction, including low flows. The Environment Agency will clamp down further on environmental damage caused by unsustainable abstraction of water through a variety of actions, including placing new conditions on existing permanent licences.

I can also commit to my hon. Friend that I will amend the explanatory notes for the Bill to include a specific reference to flow levels. That will make it crystal clear that low flows will continue to be assessed by the Environment Agency in the exercise of these new abstraction powers. I hope that he will not ask me to write to him again and that that is clear. I commend others who have raised water so eloquently: my hon. Friends the Members for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne), for Keighley (Robbie Moore) and for Broadland (Jerome Mayhew).

Moving on to amendment 30, I assure the House that restoring England’s internationally important chalk streams is a priority for this Government and for me personally. A chalk streams working group has been formed, and it is developing an action plan. Actions being considered include improving the transparency and usability of data, which can be done without primary legislation.

I turn to amendment 42. I expect sewerage companies to develop statutory drainage and sewerage plans in collaboration with risk management authorities, and I will use the power of direction in the Bill if they do not.

I turn to new clause 18 tabled by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas). While I am sympathetic to its aims, it is not necessary. The “last resort” is already a protected provision, and the Secretary of State already has a duty to review testing requirements in respect of reproductive toxicity.

Turning to amendment 24 on the REACH regulations, we have already included safeguards to protect the fundamental principles of REACH, and we cannot agree to proposed new sub-paragraph (1B) of schedule 20.

I am going to wind up now, Madam Deputy Speaker. [Interruption.] Are you saying that I have more time? If I did have time, I would wax a little more lyrical.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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For the sake of clarity, yes, the hon. Lady can have another three or four minutes.

Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker; I shall slow down a tiny bit, then.

I did just want to say a little more in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne. I talked about the sewerage management plans, which are now going to be requirements, and said that I would use the powers of direction in the Bill if water companies were not using those properly. Section 13(1) of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 already requires risk management authorities to co-operate with one another when exercising prescribed functions, but I intend to expand those functions to include the preparation of a drainage and sewerage management plan.

I hope that demonstrates that I and this Government, and DEFRA in particular, are putting this whole issue of dealing with our water right up there, centre stage. It is so important to all of us that we sort our water out, and it is thanks to so many colleagues—my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne and others who have spoken—that we are taking this really seriously. I hope that everyone will be supportive of that, including my Labour shadow colleagues.

Let me go back to REACH very quickly. I said that we had included safeguards to protect the fundamental principles of REACH, which is schedule 20. That includes ensuring a high level of protection for human health and the environment, and replacing substances of very high concern, such as cancer-causing chromium compounds, through the REACH authorisation process. As I said, we cannot agree to proposed new sub-paragraph (1B), which would force us to follow what the EU does instead of having ownership of our own laws. We would have to make decisions and regulations with no regard to our own scientific evidence. We have no plans at all to diverge from EU REACH for the sake of it. I hope the shadow Minister was listening to that, because she particularly raised it. Protecting the environment and human health is paramount, and the UK will retain the fundamental approaches and key principles of EU REACH.

I really will wind up now, Madam Deputy Speaker, and thank you for your time. It has been an honour to preside over the passage of this Bill. It has been long, and it still continues, but all the better. It charts a new and much-needed exciting and ambitious course for us all on the environment, and it will leave it in a better state than we found it. I want to thank all colleagues on both sides of the House who have taken part in this, helping to drive us all towards a fairer, greener future. I want to thank my Bill team. I probably do not have time to name them all, but I named them in Committee. I thank my private office, all Members who sat on the Public Bill Committee, my long-suffering family and my husband Charles, who I hope is watching me from up there.

As Members of the House are aware, the immense pressure put on the parliamentary timetable by the covid pandemic means that the Bill will sadly need to be carried over to the second Session. As I stated at the start, we will be back. I give an assurance that this carry-over will in no way reduce our commitment on the environment. Intensive work relating to measures in the Bill is already under way and will continue. One of the reasons I came to Parliament was to work to put the environment centre stage, helping to steer us to an essential sustainable trajectory for the planet. It is the right thing to do, and we are doing it.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for her wide-ranging thanks and comments, but I have to say that we will be doing it all again in May, because this is only day one, and we have day two to go. Hopefully, the Bill will eventually become law, which will be really good, because that is the whole point of this.

Our amendments would make an average Bill better, but as the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) said, we want the Bill to go further. Labour wants to seize the opportunity before us to develop a genuinely once-in-a-generation Bill, in the words of the Minister. Changing explanatory notes about the Bill is all very well, but it does not change the legislation. If it is that important, we should put it in the Bill.

The Minister touched on the deposit scheme, as requested, but we do not want to focus on consultation; we want a proper scheme delivered at the earliest opportunity. On air quality, it is vital that we act and act now. One Government Back Bencher noted that the World Health Organisation knows best, and I urge the Minister to take heed of that piece of advice. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) for sharing the experiences of his constituents who live in, as he put it, a “pollution blizzard”. I am also grateful to my hon. Friends the Members for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma) and for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield) for their moving and important speeches on new clause 6, on air quality. They both mentioned the lost life of Ella Kissi-Debrah—a name we must never forget.

The Minister is right: we all want strong, effective management of our water; we want clean water; and we want to mitigate the impact of hazardous waste in our waters. I am pleased that the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, the right hon. Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne), spoke earlier in the debate. He knows from the shadow Minister for water, my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock), that Her Majesty’s Opposition support his private Member’s Bill. Water quality is so important. That is why, when preparing for the debate, I was shocked to find that in Camborne and Redruth—the Secretary of State’s seat—all 10 rivers that pass through the constituency have failed to meet the standards of chemical pollution set by the Environment Agency. Simply put, the Government’s inaction has seen contaminated water not just across the country but in the Secretary of State’s own backyard. I hope that that will focus the Minister’s mind.

I join my good friend, my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones), in praising Friends of the Earth Pontypridd for its campaigning work on water, and I praise her work on nappies too. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Putney (Fleur Anderson) and for Luton South (Rachel Hopkins) for their enthusiastic contributions. The vital nature of science and its purpose was highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), who spoke about his many decades of fighting to protect our environment and preserve our planet; he is right. The Chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), made an important contribution in which he spoke to both his amendment and ours, and I thank him for the cross-party approach he has taken to these issues.

On waste, the Minister heard the message loud and clear from colleagues, and a special mention goes to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) for her years of campaigning. The Minister could quite easily accept new clause 8 and show that a cross-party approach is welcomed by Tory Ministers.

Amendment 24, which we will push to a vote, would ensure that Britain does not become a dumping ground for hazardous waste. It would prevent damaging deregulation and help to maintain regulatory parity with EU REACH and chemical-related laws that would prevent the dumping of products on the UK market that fail to meet the EU regulations and avoid the cost and complexity of regulatory divergence on the industry. Our objective is clear, and I hope that the Minister will support our amendment tonight. The need to do whatever we can to preserve our environment and protect our planet is obvious, so I hope that she will join us in doing just that.

We wish to push amendment 24 to a vote, Mr Deputy Speaker, but, with the leave of the House, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 59

Hazardous waste: England and Wales

Amendments made: 32, page 46, line 39, leave out “Before section 62A” and insert “After section 62”.

This amendment changes the way in which the location of new section 62ZA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is identified. It is currently inserted before section 62A of the 1990 Act, which is repealed by the Waste and Environmental Permitting etc. (Legislative Functions and Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

Amendment 33, page 48, line 45, leave out from beginning to first “the” in line 13 on page 49 and insert—

‘(8A) In the application of this Part to England, “hazardous waste” means—

(a) any waste identified as hazardous waste in—

(i) the waste list as it applies in relation to England, or

(ii) regulations made by the Secretary of State under regulation 3 of the Waste and Environmental Permitting etc. (Legislative Functions and Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/1540), and

(b) any other waste that is treated as hazardous waste for the purposes of—

(i) regulations made by the Secretary of State under section 62ZA, or

(ii) the Hazardous Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2005 (S.I. 2005/894).

(8B) In the application of this Part to Wales, “hazardous waste” means—

(a) any waste identified as hazardous waste in—

(i) the waste list as it applies in relation to Wales, or

(ii) regulations made by the Welsh Ministers under regulation 3 of the Waste and Environmental Permitting etc. (Legislative Functions and Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/1540), and

(b) any other waste that is treated as hazardous waste for the purposes of—

(i) regulations made by the Welsh Ministers under section 62ZA, or

(ii) the Hazardous Waste (Wales) Regulations 2005 (S.I. 2005/1806).

(8C) In subsections (8A) and (8B),’.

This amendment updates the definitions of hazardous waste being inserted into Part 2 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to take account of the Waste and Environmental Permitting etc. (Legislative Functions and Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

Amendment 34, page 49, line 18, leave out from “(2000/532/EC)” to end of line 19.—(Rebecca Pow.)

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 33.

Clause 62

Regulations under the Environmental Protection Act 1990

Amendment made: 35, page 55, line 33, leave out subsection (4).—(Rebecca Pow.)

This amendment omits an amendment to section 62A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which is no longer needed because section 62A is repealed by the Waste and Environmental Permitting etc. (Legislative Functions and Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

Clause 73

Environmental recall of motor vehicles etc

Amendment made: 7, page 63, line 18, at end insert—

“and the regulations may provide that a reference in the regulations to a standard is to be construed as a reference to that standard as it has effect from time to time.”—(Rebecca Pow.)

This amendment provides that regulations under Clause 73 specifying relevant environmental standards may specify standards as they have effect from time to time. This power to make ambulatory references will avoid the need to amend the regulations each time standards are updated.

Clause 91

Disclosure of Revenue and Customs information

Amendment made: 8, page 91, line 31, leave out

“section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003”

and insert

“paragraph 24(2) of Schedule 22 to the Sentencing Act 2020”.—(Rebecca Pow.)

Section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 has been replaced by paragraph 24(2) of Schedule 22 to the Sentencing Act 2020. This amendment updates the cross-reference in consequence.

Schedule 20

Amendment of REACH legislation

Amendment proposed: 24, page 244, line 19, at end insert—

‘(1A) Regulations made under this paragraph must not regress upon the protections or standards of any Article or Annex of the REACH Regulation.

(1B) Subject to sub-paragraph (1A), the Secretary of State—

(a) must make regulations under this paragraph to maintain, and

(b) may make regulations under this paragraph to exceed

     parity of all protections and standards of chemical regulation with any new or amended regulations of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the regulation of chemicals.’ —(Ruth Jones.)

This amendment would set a minimum of protections under REACH and remove the possibility that a Secretary of State might lower standards than are in place currently, whilst reserving the right for them to set higher standards should they choose.

The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.

Bill to be further considered tomorrow.