Defra consults on new green watchdog and post-Brexit environmental principles

On Thursday, DEFRA announced there would be a new Environmental Principles and Governance Bill, and issued a consultation on the contents of that bill, which includes provision for a new green policeman to hold government to account for environmental outcomes.

Subject to consultation, the new independent and statutory watchdog could specifically be responsible for:

  • Providing independent scrutiny and advice on existing and future government environmental law and policy

  • Responding to complaints about government’s delivery of environmental law.

  • Holding government to account publicly over its delivery of environmental law and exercising enforcement powers where necessary.

The government is also consulting on its intention to require ministers to produce – and then have regard to – a statutory and comprehensive policy statement setting out how they will apply core environmental principles as they develop policy and discharge their responsibilities. Currently environmental decisions made in the UK are overseen by the European Commission and underpinned by a number of these principles, but these not set out in one place besides the EU treaties. DEFRA said: “The new Environmental Principles and Governance Bill will ensure governments continue to have regard to important environmental principles through the policy statement, which would be scrutinised by Parliament.”

The consultation also seeks views on whether or not the principles to be contained in the policy statement should be listed in primary legislation.

The Environmental Principles and Governance Bill will be published in draft in the autumn. Public consultation on the environmental principles policy statement will follow in due course. The government said the Bill will be introduced early in the second session of this Parliament, ensuring these measures are introduced in time for the end of the implementation period in December 2020.