Water in politics
Retaining enhanced environmental protection after EU exit
Retaining enhanced environmental protections post Brexit was discussed in the House of Commons last week as part of the extensive debates on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.
Labour’s Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy tabled new clause 25, which would require any substantial changes to retained EU law to be agreed by Act of Parliament. McCarthy explained: “The Bill as it stands gives the government of the day the power to water down or remove EU-derived environmental standards by statutory instrument…In their White Paper, the government state that ‘Parliament…will be able to decide which elements of that law to keep, amend or repeal’.’Parliament’ should mean a vote by the whole Parliament, and that is what these amendments seek to achieve.”
Green MP Caroline Lucus was among those who spoke for the clause. She said: “New clause 25 would address that weakness by establishing a new process for modifying retained EU law after Brexit—one that I believe strikes a better balance of powers—and it acknowledges that it is sometimes necessary to amend technical provisions using secondary legislation. It allows for that, but it would also ensure that more substantive modifications to retained EU law can only be made by an Act of Parliament.”
Water minister Therese Coffey responded to two written questions on behalf of the environment secretary on 15 November:
The DUP’s Jim Shannon asked what steps the department is taking to reduce the level of sewage in rivers and to maintain habitat and species in and around rivers.
Labour Ipswich MP Sandy Martin asked what steps the department is taking to identify environmental protections which may require additional legislation when the UK leaves the EU.