Defra Secretary Michael Gove has indicated his intention to bring a new Environmental Protection Bill before parliament as the UK prepares to leave the EU.
Mr Gove revealed the latest part of his ‘Green Brexit’ plan as the EU Withdrawal Bill passed through the House of Commons.
Though the Government defeated an amendment to the Bill which would have enshrined the EU’s precautionary and polluter pays principles in law, former Shadow Defra Secretary Oliver Letwin told MPs a new Environmental Protection Act would do just that, to nods of agreement from Mr Gove.
Mr Letwin said: “We must leave it to Ministers to speak for themselves, but I have to say the discussions I and others have had with the Secretary of State, who, as people have remarked in this debate is of a very different cast of mind from some previous Secretaries of State, suggest to me there will be an Environmental Protection Bill coming forward.”
Asked if the introduction of the Bill was ‘on his mind’, Mr Gove nodded.
The Environmental Audit Committee, chaired by Mary Creagh, has been calling for a specific Environment Bill since January, but Ms Creagh was sceptical of the promise given the long-awaited 25-year Environment Plan has still not been published.
Mr Letwin responded to Ms Creagh’s concerns by saying the Bill’s introduction was ‘perfectly doable’.
“I am in a slightly odd position – the Secretary of State has to nod each time I say these things, because I cannot speak for him – but I assure the hon. Lady I really am very confident about it”, he added.
Just last week, Mr Gove revealed he would set up a new environmental watchdog to hold the Government to account.
The move was given a lukewarm reception from farming groups, who were concerned agriculture was not getting the same amount of attention as the environment.
At the time, there was no indication of the powers the body would have, but asked if it would be able to fine the Government, Mr Letwin said: “In a word, yes, because this body will be able to take the Government to court, and the courts have the power to injunct, and if the Government fails to observe an injunction, results follow.
“The body must have that capacity.”