Yesterday, Defra published the first part of the forthcoming Environment Bill. This includes the governance arrangements to create a new environmental watchdog and the environmental principles.
There are some aspects of the Bill that CIEEM welcomes and others that we believe are unproductive.
We are pleased to see that the Bill proposes long-term, ambitious plans for the environment, however there is little detail currently on what this will look like.
We are pleased to see that the new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) will report to Parliament. However, this is somewhat undermined by the fact that the OEP will have to work in accordance with a plan set out by the Secretary of State.
We are dissapointed to see that the OEP’s funding will be determined by the Secretary of State, and that the Secretary of State will have significant influence over the appointment of the OEP’s chair, board and senior staff.
In short, the Bill gives substantial power and influence to the Secretary of State, significantly undermining the new body’s independence.
CIEEM will be analysing the Bill in the coming weeks and will engage with stakeholders on its benefits and shortcomings. We will further engage with relevant stakeholders pre- and post-publication of the full Environment Bill itself next spring in order to advise on improvements.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and the Environmental Audit Committee have also launched a joint call for written evidence for pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill, to which CIEEM will be responding.