Tag Archives: environment bill

Kicking up yet another stink

What, if anything, do we learn, or reaffirm, from the 2021 double rerun of The Great Stink of 1885? The events are not, of course, directly comparable. The Victorian version directly offended the nostrils of Parliamentarians. The 2021 versions offend the nostrums of the governing Party.

The 1885 stink led to great reforms – the creation (eventually) of the Public Works Loans Board to fund long-term infrastructure investment and Joseph Bazalgette’s designs for the Embankment.

This year’s more-political stinks were first triggered by the Tories refusal to oblige privatised water companies to stop dumping raw sewage – as intended by a Lord’s amendment to a long-awaited Environment Bill. The stink set Downing Street on a voyage around the u-bend – to find some way of cleaning up the mess. But that was merely a pre-cursor to the next stink – a 3-line whip to wreck the Parliamentary Standards regulation. That stink was belatedly recognised as unwise – not least because Tory MPs felt they’d been dumped upon.

But both stinks directly affect Fareham for two reasons.

Firstly, our Hill Head residents are campaigning for better beach signage to warn bathers and sailors of the untreated effluent dumped by Southern Water. This pollution stink coincided with COP26 – further damaging the government’s ‘green’ credentials. Their much delayed ‘Environment Bill’ is still being bounced around Parliament – with common sense being championed from the Lords only to be rejected by those concerned more to protect profits.

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Tories’ broken Environment Bill ignores local communities

Protecting our beautiful green spaces should be a priority for any Government. They are hugely important to the environment and help make our local communities so beautiful.

And this year, where many of us have spent less time in the pub and more time outside absorbing nature, was a timely reminder of why our environment should always be at the top of the agenda.

But for this Government, our natural spaces are only an afterthought, a distraction that can be brushed away under the carpet. If there was any doubt of that, look no further than the shoddy Environment Bill that came back to Parliament today.

The Bill does little to address the real concerns people have in protecting their local environments and preserving biodiversity.

We are already living in one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, our waterways are in a poor state with just 14% in good condition, and more than 40% of native species are in decline.

This is an embarrassment as the Government claims to be increasing ambition and pushing for nature-based solutions in the run-up to COP26. It’s now or never to get this right and we have to get our own house in order first.

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The Environment Bill takes the emergency out of climate emergency and is full of holes

As the Brexit skirmishes continue, it is easy to lose track of other important pieces of legislation struggling to get parliamentary time. One of those is the Environment Bill. The second reading of the bill on 23 October was abruptly cancelled to make way for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. That’s ironic as a large part of the Environment Bill is concerned with reinstating the environmental protection the UK will lose if it ceases to a member of the EU. The bill aims for a lot more, including a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, measures to improve air quality, and rules to ensure biodiversity net gain from housing and some other developments. 

It’s a great forward looking bill. At least, that’s what ministers say. In practice the bill is colander bill. It is full of holes. It fails to incorporate the principle of non-regression into law. It sets 2037 as the earliest date for any environmental targets and those targets are at the behest of ministers. It allows environmental policies to be watered down by ministers at a whim, including the target for biodiversity gain. It is a bill that takes the emergency out of the climate emergency. 

Posted in Op-eds | 7 Comments
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