What did we learn from the Queen’s Speech?

Queen Elizabeth II today presented her Government’s priorities for the next Parliament.

We learned that the Fisheries, Agriculture and Trade Bills will be relaid before parliament, and that the Environment Bill will be “momentous“.

The Agriculture Bill will introduce “schemes to pay for public goods like environmental protection” by “putting the interests of farmers and land managers, the environment and taxpayers at its core.” The Government will also set out the “framework for a new Environmental Land Management scheme, underpinned by the payment of public money for public goods.” The schemes will introduce “paying for public goods including environmental protection, access to the countryside, and work to reduce flooding.” A seven-year agricultural transition period will be implemented to allow for a smooth change from the current CAP system.

The Marine Bill will aim at “ensuring the sustainability of our marine life and environment.”

The Prime Minister’s introduction says: “The huge star of our legislative programme is a momentous new Environment Bill – a lodestar by which we will guide our country towards a cleaner, and greener future.” We will hopefully see more detail on this at tomorrow’s speech by Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers.

Details on the Environment Bill are as follows (CIEEM added bold):

“My Ministers remain committed to protecting and improving the environment for future generations. For the first time, environmental principles will be enshrined in law. Measures will be introduced to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution and restore habitats so plants and wildlife can thrive. Legislation will also create new legally-binding environmental improvement targets. A new, world-leading independent regulator will be established in statute to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action.”

The purpose of the Bill is to:

  • Transform our domestic environmental governance based on environmental principles; codify a comprehensive framework for legally binding targets; and the establishment of a new Office for Environmental Protection.
  • Increase local powers to tackle sources of air pollution.
  • Improve biodiversity by working with developers. [This is a reference to Biodiversity Net Gain]
  • Extend producer responsibility, ensure a consistent approach to recycling and introduce deposit return schemes.
  • Introduce charges for specified single use plastic items.
  • Secure long-term, resilient water and wastewater services, including through powers to direct water companies to work together to meet current and future demand.

The main benefits of the Bill would be:

  • Improving and protecting the environment with new domestic governance, including a world-leading environmental watchdog.
  • Improving air quality by fighting air pollution so that we have cleaner air to breathe.
  • Ensuring we can manage our precious water resources in a changing climate.”