Peers pass 14 amendments on Environment Bill
Updated: Nov 23, 2021
The Environment Bill will receive third reading in the Lords after the Conference Recess before parliamentary ‘Ping-Pong’ begins where amendments are agreed by both Houses. Peers were very engaged over four late night sittings in September where they pressed the Government on many key issues and passed 14 amendments on a variety of areas including:
The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP): an amendment was passed to remove the clause which allowed the Secretary of State to issue guidance to the OEP regarding its enforcement powers and inserted a clause giving the OEP complete discretion in that area and a requirement for a House of Commons committee to approve new OEP board member appointments.
Biodiversity emergency: an amendment requiring the Government to declare a biodiversity emergency, similar to the calling of a climate emergency in 2019. The need for this was resisted by the Government which gave rise to fears that action would not match rhetoric.
Air quality: an amendment which sets a legally binding 2030 target to get the levels of PM2.5 reduced to the 2005 WHO limit.
Statutory targets: an amendment to make interim targets and not simply long term targets (such as net-zero by 2050) legally binding.
Plastics: an amendment to extend the power to implement charges for single-use plastic in the Bill to other single-use materials.
Waterways: an amendment which would impose a duty on sewerage undertakers to improve sewage systems and to reduce, if not eliminate, untreated discharges into watercourses, and a requirement the Government enforce such a duty.
Habitat protection: an amendment, made in response to the Government amending the Bill in the Commons to allow the 2017 Habitats Regulations to be altered, requiring that any changes to the regulations maintain existing levels of environmental protection and are made following consultation.
Removing exemptions: an amendment which removes the exemptions which defence, national security (MoD), and fiscal policy (Treasury) enjoy from the requirement that ministers consider the environmental principles when making policy.
Trees: an amendment enhancing protection for ancient woodlands was passed as was an amendment requiring the Government to review the effectiveness of their deforestation/ forest risk commodities provisions in the Bill 1 – 2 years after they come into force.
Soil: an amendment which would add soil health and quality to the Bill’s list of priority areas (for which the Government must set long-term environmental targets).
The Government have previously stated their desire for the Bill’s passage to be completed by the time of COP 26. While it is likely that the Government will overturn a number of these amendments when the Bill goes back to the Commons, Peers will press the Government on key issues to gain concessions while the Bill continues to progress.