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  • by Karma Loveday

Environment Bill reaches Committee stage as Peers press for amendments

The Environment Bill will move to the Committee stage, for line by line examination, on 21 June following the completion of its Second Reading in the Lords last Monday.


Peers pressed the government, represented by Defra minister Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, extensively on a wide range of topics including targets, biodiversity loss and the Office of Environmental Protection.


Among the key water topics discussed was water quality, particularly storm overflow pollution. Referencing the new storm overflow provisions in the Bill, Lord Goldsmith said: "Water companies clearly must do more to prevent raw sewage flowing into our rivers.” Elsewhere on water, the Lords covered water efficiency (Lord Goldsmith said the government response on measures would be published “very soon, in the summer”) and chalk stream abstraction, on which Lord Goldsmith reported the Environment Agency would be publishing an action plan later this year.


The peers further pressed the Government at a question session on Thursday, on both the desirability of passing the Bill before COP26, but also ensuring there is sufficient time for full debate. Baroness Young of Old Scone led the charge, saying: “The Environment Bill is big and important, and peers at Second Reading showed its need for amendment; it must be given adequate time. Does the minister accept that the Bill would go a lot faster if sensible amendments for improvement were accepted by the government in a collaborative spirit rather than routinely rejected as if by rote? Would he accept that it would pretty difficult for the Government to show global leadership at COP 15 and COP 26 if they passed a Bill that is watering down previous environmental commitments — for example, on the office for environmental protection and halting biodiversity, climate and habitat regulations?”


Lord Goldsmith shared: “My Lords, it is absolutely our intention that the Bill be passed before COP 26." The Bill will be committed to a Committee of the Whole House in the main chamber so it can be discussed in detail on the floor of the House by all MPs.

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