This Bill will place environmental ambition and accountability at the centre of Government. It introduces legislative measures to address the greatest environmental priorities of our age, setting us along the right path to meet the Governments commitment to leave nature in a better state than we found it.
The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) will hold the power to take public bodies to an upper tribunal if there are breaches of the law. I believe the OEP must be independent and fully transparent in order to effectively hold the Government to account on its targets. It is therefore positive that I have been reassured by my Ministerial colleagues that the OEP will be operationally independent from Government. Ministers will not be able to set its programme of activity or influence its decision making.
The Bill will grant the Secretary of State the power to set long-term, legally binding environmental targets on air quality, water, biodiversity, and resource efficiency and waste reduction that will be reviewed every five years. There will then be a published environmental improvement plan which will be reviewed every five years and a progress report will be published annually. I welcome the fact that the OEP will hold this and every future Government to account on these targets and will report on the progress made to improve the natural environment.
Additionally, should the Secretary of State wish to lower or change a target, they would have to lay this before Parliament and publish a statement as to why they had reached their decision. After which it would then be up to myself and other Members of Parliament to scrutinise this decision and vote on a Statutory Instrument to change any necessary legislation.