Environment Bill (announced additions) (UK)

The long awaited and highly significant Environment Bill is revived in the current Parliament session. I Blog posted earlier that it would be.

The UK government has made 3 announcements in May –

(1) new legal duties on water companies and the government will be inserted to reduce sewage discharged into waterways – announcement is here

(2) a new additional legally binding target for species abundance for 2030 will be inserted – George Eustice Speech is here

Environmental targets in the Bill are summarised in the October 2020 updated August 2020 policy paper – here.

(3) a new power will be taken to refocus the Habitats Regulations – see George Eustice Speech

[The George Eustice Speech also makes further announcements on consultation and strategy publication in the areas of Nature, Peat and Trees.]

The Bill, as we see it now, was originally revived from the previous May Government after the 2019 general election.

In 2020, the majority of the 2019-2020 Bill provisions were substantially the same as its predecessor, although a number of minor technical changes had been made to the drafting. The substantive additions to the Bill (at the start of 2020) were :

• a requirement on Ministers to make a statement to Parliament setting out the effect of new primary environmental legislation on existing levels of environmental protection (Clause 19); and

• a requirement on the Secretary of State to conduct a two-yearly review of the significant developments in international legislation on the environment, and to publish a report on their findings every two years (Clause 20).

The Commons Library analysed the Environment Bill in March 2020 – here.

Most of the Bill extends to England and Wales and applies in England. There are some parts that extend to the whole of the UK or apply to specific UK nations. For example, there are specific provisions on environmental governance, managing waste and water quality that extend and apply to Northern Ireland only. Provisions on waste including producer responsibility, resource efficiency and exporting waste extend and apply to the whole of the UK, as do the provisions on environmental recall of motor vehicles, and the provisions on the regulation of chemicals.

Note – DEFRA has current consultations relating to the Environment Bill –

(1) Consultation on the Draft Policy Statement on Environmental Principles – here.

(2) Consultation on Introducing a Deposit Return Scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (a Deposit Return Scheme is already legislated for in Scotland) – here.

Queen’s Speech 2021 (UK)

The State Opening of Parliament is scheduled to take place on 11 May 2021. Parliament was prorogued on Thursday 29 April 2021, bringing the 2019-21 Session to an end.

The House of Commons Library has a Research Briefing that identifies issues and bills that may appear in the Queen’s Speech on 11 May or that may require legislation in the forthcoming parliamentary session. This Briefing is here.

A number of items to note :

(1) some bills have been subject to carry-over motions, notably –

* the Environment Bill (again)

On 26 January 2021, special arrangements were made to carry-over the Environment Bill 2019-21. Normally bills that are carried over must complete their passage through both Houses in 12 months. The Environment Bill 2019-21 was re-introduced on 30 January 2020 (as a reinstatement of the previous administration’s Environment Bill with some additions, and some deletions). The motion to carry-over the January 2020 bill allowed two years instead of the one year provided for in Standing Orders for the completion of the passage of the Bill. The motion was agreed without a division.

Progress of the Environment Bill can be seen here.

* the Finance (formerly Finance No. 2)) Bill (this contains the landfill tax rates from 1st April 2021 – England and Northern Ireland, the CCL uprating from 1st April 2022, abolition of the carbon emissions tax provision, and provision for the packaging tax from 1st April 2022)

* the Draft Building Safety Bill (published in the 2019-2021 session)

(2) a number of issues are identified as potential subjects for legislation, notably –

* Planning reform in England

The August 2020 White Paper said that the proposed changes would require primary and secondary legislation, as well as updating the National Planning Policy Framework. In response to a parliamentary question in September 2020, the Government said it would “set out any decisions and any associated proposed implementation” in “due course.” A newsletter from MHCLG’s chief planner in December 2020 said that the Government would “publish a response in the Spring setting out its decisions on the proposed way forward including preparing for legislation, should the government so decide, in the Autumn.”

No further detail has been announced.

Environment Bill (UK)

The Environment Bill has come out of hibernation and is scheduled to have its House of Commons Committee Stage today, 3rd November.

This very wide reaching and important Bill is a re-introduction (with some changes) of the Environment Bill introduced by the previous administration, but not enacted.

I Blog posted in 2019 about it. To reprise – the Environment Bill comprises two thematic halves. The first provides a legal framework for environmental governance, including setting up the Office for Environmental Protection – the OEP (the new additional regulator in England, and Northern Ireland). The second makes provision for specific improvement of the environment, including measures on waste and resource efficiency, air quality and environmental recall, water, nature and biodiversity, and conservation covenants.

The Bill also makes further Brexit changes to REACH Legislation.

The Bill is a very lengthy document – an unofficial version of tracked changes (from the earlier Bill) is here.

Re the OEP – the government has tabled its own amendment to the bill to enable it to guide the OEP how to use its enforcement powers. Note, with the current Bill drafting, the government will itself choose the people in charge of the OEP – the chair and the board.

Depending on the rate of progress, I will commence reprising the earlier Blog posts I wrote, and adding new ones.

Environment Bill (England & UK Brexit)

The Environment Bill returns to the Commons for Second Reading today. It is a slightly different Bill to 2019. Please reprise the posts I wrote in 2019, I summarise the changes (from those posts) below – I had got as far as Water – please find those posts in the Environment Bill category on this blog.

Targets (unchanged from 2019 Bill) – reprising because I didn’t set these out before – England only (targets are within the competencies of devolved legislatures)

– allow government to set long-term targets (of at least 15 years duration) in relation to the natural environment and people’s enjoyment of the natural environment via statutory instrument;

– require government to meet long-term targets, and to prepare remedial plans where long-term targets are not met;

– require government to set, by October 2022, at least one long-term target in each of the priority areas of air quality, water, biodiversity, and resource efficiency and waste reduction;

– require government to set and meet an air quality target for fine particulate matter in ambient air (PM2.5);

– require government to periodically review all environmental targets to assess whether meeting them would significantly improve the natural environment in England.

Note Clause 20 – Clause 20: Reports on international environmental protection legislation (this is unchanged from 2019 Bill, but I did not spell it out before) – this clause places an obligation on the Secretary of State to produce a report on significant developments in international environmental protection legislation, every two years, and lay it before Parliament. England only (competencies are within the competencies of devolved legislatures).

The scope and content of the report will be determined by the Secretary of State – see subsection (5). However, in a given reporting period it could cover: significant developments in the legislation of other countries that are mainly concerned with seeking to protect the natural environment from the effects of human activity or protecting people from the effects of human activity on the environment; legislation on the maintenance, restoration or enhancement of the natural environment; or legislative provisions around monitoring, assessing, considering and reporting and monitoring on these matters. The report will not extend to reviewing or considering the planning systems of other countries.

OEP (Office for Environmental Protection) – unchanged from 2019 Bill – see Blog posts on this – England only (establishing an OEP is within the competencies of devolved legislatures – Scotland indicated it would go this direction see its Environmental Strategy – see my post of yesterday).

Changes to UK REACH – unchanged from 2019 Bill

Waste, Air and Water appear unchanged from the 2019 Bill, and I have Blog posted before about these topics. Nonetheless, I will Blog again re Waste, because this is highly complex and a lot of new processes are announced. Please read the Explanatory Notes – here.

New Blog posts will be made about the rest of the Bill, please look out for those.

Environment Bill (England & UK, Brexit)

Exit day is tomorrow, the transition period will last until 31st December.

The Environment Bill (from the previous session) is being brought back today and given its First Reading in the UK Parliament.

I Blog posted already about the earlier Environment Bill (various sections). When the Bill is published I will reprise those areas that are changed, and Blog post as well on the further sections I had not covered.

To remind – the Environment Bill is an important Bill setting up the Office for Environmental Protection (England) and making further changes to UK REACH to enable it to function from 1st Jan 2021, and additionally setting out other measures (England, and some provisions for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

The government announcement last night signals :

(1) A ban on the export of plastic waste (which was in the Conservative manifesto), additional to the waste provisions in the previous Bill. Note, the waste provisions as signalled do not align with the 2019 EU Single-Use Plastics Directive.

(2) A bi-annual review of international developments in environmental law that it says will inform domestic law making.

Please look out for further Blog posts on the matter, when the Bill is published.

Queens Speech (UK)

Exit day is 31st January 2020 – DExEU government department will close on that day

Of relevance (for this Blog) in the Queen’s Speech today are :

(1) the Environment Bill – this will be brought back with alterations

(2) a new Fire safety and Building safety bill or bills

(3) the withdrawal agreement bill and associated Brexit bills

Please look out for further Blog posts when the bill text is published.

Environment Bill (published) – Part 5 (England & UK part)

The Bill is here. 130 Clauses in 8 Parts, and 20 Schedules.

The Explanatory Memorandum is here.

The Environment Bill (“the Bill”) is comprised of two thematic halves.

(1) A legal framework for environmental governance once the UK leaves the EU.

This was earlier published in part as the draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill on 19 December 2018, fulfilling a legal obligation set out in section 16 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The measures published at that time related only to environmental principles and governance, and placing the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan on a statutory footing.

I posted three Blog posts so far about the first thematic half – one on UK REACH, one on Parts 1&2, and one on the OEP.

(2) Provision for specific improvement of the environment, including measures on waste and resource efficiency, air quality and environmental recall, water, nature and biodiversity, and conservation covenants.

SPECIFIC IMPROVEMENT of the ENVIRONMENT

Part 5 – Water – includes –

– improving water resources planning, which facilitates collaborative regional planning and considers the needs of all sectors of water users, including the environment;

[in the context of water scarcity in certain locations, although not specifically mentioned, we may need to see the construction of further reservoirs]

– placing on a statutory footing drainage and wastewater planning to assess risks to sewerage networks and network capacity;

– modernising water regulation by reforming elements of the abstraction licensing regime to link it more tightly to the government’s objectives for the water environment;

– enabling updates to be made to the valuation calculations relevant to the apportionment of internal drainage board (IDB) charges in secondary legislation, allowing for the creation of new or expansion of existing IDBs where there is a local desire to do so;

enabling updates to the lists of priority substances that pose a threat to water bodies in line with the latest scientific knowledge, when there are no longer powers under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972.

Clause 79 sets out these powers. Note the consent requirements re the devolved administrations –

– Clause 79 Subsection (4) establishes that the Secretary of State can only exercise the powers in this section to make provision that could be made by the Welsh Ministers or Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs under their own powers in clauses 80 and 81 respectively with their consent.

– Clause 79 Subsection (5) establishes that the Secretary of State cannot exercise the powers in this section to make provisions which would fall within the Scottish Parliament’s devolved competency, given effect by powers under an Act of that Parliament, with the exception of parts of the cross border river basin districts lying in Scotland, where the Secretary of State could exercise the powers to make provisions but only with Scottish Ministers’ consent.

– Clause 79 Subsection (6) establishes the consultation requirements attached to the exercise of the powers. Subsection (6)(b) requires the Secretary of State to consult with Welsh Ministers when making regulations applying to an England and Wales cross-border River Basin District (RBD) that lies in England, and when the Welsh Ministers’ consent is not required under subsection (4). This would mean consultation is only required if the provision being made is only for the English part and does not apply to the part in Wales. Subsection (5)(c) places the same consultation requirements on the Secretary of State in relation to the cross-border RBDs shared with Scotland.

Note –

– Clause 80 confers a regulation, broadly comparable to that in clause 79, on the Welsh Ministers in relation to Wales. Subsection (4) requires consultation with the Natural Resources Body for Wales, other interested persons or bodies, and with the Secretary of State when exercising the power in relation to the Welsh part of a cross-border RBD.

– Clause 81 confers the same power on the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in relation to Northern Ireland.

—————

As a Bill, this document would need to pass both Houses of Parliament to enter the statute books. You note, I pegged this as England.

However, some Clauses are intended to have effect outside England – see page 194 of the Explanatory Memorandum which has a table. And see earlier re environmental quality standards and substance lists.

If the Bill enters the statute books, the provisions then need to be commenced, some may be commenced immediately, such as those that are needed directly for EU Exit, but there could be a substantive delay in the commencement of other Part, such as Part 5.

I will issue further Blog posts, please look out for them.

Exit day (EU & UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st January 2020 (a Statutory Instrument will be issued shortly)

The Exit day has been put back, and the UK government will today seek approval to hold a general election in December.

There are further steps after the expected election approval later today, notably re Northern Ireland (where the government there did not meet the deadline to resume operation) and then five weeks of the campaign.

There are further steps after the election date – the swearing in of the MPs, election of the Speaker, Queens Speech etc.

It is expected UK Law making will resume at the start of January 2020.

The Environment Bill passed its Second Reading last night, and its associated timetable and ways and means motions also passed.

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed its Second Reading some days ago, but its associated timetable motion was not agreed.

The Budget will be held over until the New Year.

Please look out for further Blog posts.

Environment Bill (the OEP) (England & UK part)

The Environment Bill creates a new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), in England (with extension to Northern Ireland), I identified this in an earlier post.

This is necessary because Exiting the EU will leave a gap in governance.

The Bill –

– creates a statutory obligation on the Secretary of State, in exercising functions relating to the OEP, for example when making ministerial appointments to the OEP, to have regard to the independence of the OEP

[a Ministerial Statement will confirm the OEP will be given five year ring fenced indicative budget]

– covers climate change – the earlier exclusion of climate legislation is removed

– could consider in scope the spending of other departments on matters that related to environmental law (this is not however, the same, as the EU’s explicit incorporation of the environment in the policy making of all departments)

– envisages and facilitates (via information sharing) cooperation and mandates consultation (on transboundary areas) with any equivalent ‘devolved environmental body’ that is set up in Scotland and Wales

– extends to Northern Ireland (a Schedule in the Bill covers this) if so mandated by a restored Stormont – the Schedule provides for the Chair of such a NI extension to be selected by the Secretary of State for NI and DAERA (the environment department in NI)

– includes ‘environmental review’ enforcement powers in the Upper Tribunal

The OEP will launch to coincide with the IP (Implementation Period) completion day – 31st Dec 2020.

Scotland and Wales have made no announcements re their own bodies.

Withdrawal Agreement Bill (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October – Thursday week (this date is in a Statutory Instrument)

Yesterday the government published the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – here.

There are additional documents also published, including Explanatory Notes – here.

The Bill (known as the WAB) is 115 pages, with 40 clauses and 6 schedules. It’s purpose is to give effect in domestic law to the Withdrawal Agreement that was agreed between the EU and the UK on 17th October, and to ratify that Withdrawal Agreement.

– The Bill amends the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (a core existing Brexit Law) to ensure it reflects the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement. Re Brexit Law, the Bill saves the Brexit Law for the end of the transition period (in the Bill this is the IP (Implementation Period) completion day).

– The Bill creates powers to make secondary legislation (Statutory Instruments), where appropriate, to enable the Withdrawal Agreement to be implemented domestically.

– The Bill includes amendments to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 in relation to rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity protections contained in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement 1998.

– The Bill includes provision relating to facilitating access for Northern Ireland goods to the market in Great Britain, as well as further provision to ensure no alteration to the arrangements for North South cooperation can occur as a result of this Bill.

The Withdrawal Agreement sets out the exit terms, covering the transition period, the monies to be paid to the EU, citizen rights, the Ireland-Northern Ireland specific arrangements, and other matters.

The Bill gives effect to these exit terms.

The timetabling of UK Parliament debate on this Bill will be voted on today.

The government has already signaled that all of this week will be taken up with this Bill, leaving the further debate on the Queen’s Speech and the Environment Bill Second Reading for later dates (unspecified).

Please look out for further Blog posts on this matter.