At the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee which took place just before parliamentary business was suspended, Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers pointed out how the Environment Bill will be delayed until next summer at the earliest.
Villiers said she would adopt many of former Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s causes but put her own “stamp” on them saying: “I would very much like to take up many of the causes that Michael Gove espoused as my predecessor, but I hope to be able to put my own individual stamp on some of these important projects as well.”
Villiers said: “All of the environmental protections that we enjoy in the UK have been imported onto the UK statute books, so we are ready to go on that.”
She added: “Interim arrangements have been made to ensure that complaints and concerns could be investigated from the start after Brexit and passed on to the OEP as soon as it is established.”
With regard to the independence of the chair and members of the Office for Environmental Protection she said: “We are hoping to publish the revised bill soon and we will be taking on board the number of proposals led by this committee and whilst I can’t pre announce that, the OBR (office for budget responsibility) type model which you (the committee) discussed with my predecessor is one that I think has much to recommend it. I am determined that when that bill is published we have the substantial degree of independence that the committee wants.”
Regarding potential differences between UK and EU environmental law, post-Brexit, she said:
“There are many ways to deliver an environmental outcome. It’s short-sighted to assume that the EU is exclusively wise on this.
The EU legislative process often takes two years. We may wish to pilot different ways to deliver an environmental outcome, or to make swifter changes on policy delivery. Much of that is very difficult if you stick to the letter of EU regulations.
We are committed to standards which are as good or better than the EU but we reserve the right to do that in a way that respects UK conditions.”
Villiers also said: “Taking forward a groundbreaking Environment Bill is hugely important if we are going to meet our obligations in terms of environmental matters. Tackling waste, litter and in particular the pollution of our oceans is another thing which is a key priority for me and I think we need to harness the public enthusiasm for this.”