Below is the text of the statement made by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in the House of Commons on 19 December 2018.
This Government have made a commitment to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it. This landmark environment Bill—the first in over 20 years—will be an essential step towards this goal. We will support increased biodiversity and thriving plants and wildlife. We will continue to clean up our air and our water, creating a healthier environment. We will cut down unnecessary resource use and waste, reducing our impact on the world and shaping a more efficient, sustainable and competitive economy.
The draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill is one key aspect of this ambitious broader environment Bill that will be introduced early in the second parliamentary Session. These draft clauses will put environmental ambition and accountability at the heart of Government. It will create a framework for environmental governance, demonstrating this Government’s strong commitment to maintain environmental protection as we leave the EU. The draft Bill applies to England and to reserved matters UK-wide.
First, these draft clauses include a set of environmental principles to guide future policy making. It also requires the Government to publish a policy statement which sets out how Ministers should interpret and apply these environmental principles. Ministers will need to have regard to this statement when developing their policies. Through this approach, we will firmly embed practical and proportionate environmental considerations in policy making.
Secondly, these draft clauses commit Government to have a plan for improving the environment and to regularly review progress on this plan, publishing a set of indicators. This creates a strong, long-term, economy-wide incentive for action on our landmark 25-year environment plan, which sets crucial changes in motion to improve the environment within a generation.
Thirdly, the draft Bill creates a new, statutory and independent environment body: the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP). This new domestic body will support and uphold standards as we leave the EU. The OEP will be able to scrutinise and advise on environmental legislation and the current 25-year environment plan; investigate complaints; and take enforcement action, including through legal proceedings if needed. Establishing the OEP will ensure that this and every future Government benefit from the expertise vested in a consistent, long-term, independent body on the environment.
In developing these draft clauses, we have drawn on the views and expertise of as many stakeholders and members of the public as possible. We held a 12-week consultation on “Environmental Principles and Governance after EU Exit” from May to August 2018. The monumental 176,746 responses we received are proof of the strength of public interest in this new legislation.
We welcome the forthcoming parliamentary pre-legislative scrutiny to ensure that these draft clauses makes the best possible contribution to protecting our environment as we leave the EU. By creating a new, independent body to hold the Government to account on environmental law, incorporating environmental principles in law, and committing the Government to making and reviewing plans to improve the environment, we are taking unprecedented steps forward to help secure a cleaner, greener future.
Water conservation report: action taken and planned by Government to encourage the conservation of water
Today I am also laying before Parliament the water conservation report. This report provides an account of the work done by the Government to encourage the conservation of water since the publication of the previous report in 2014. The report will also set out the Government’s current plans for water conservation and policy options for demand management in the future.
The report sets out the importance of demand management, including leakage, in securing resilient water supplies to respond to future challenges including climate change, population growth and the need to protect the environment better. These changes are needed alongside new water resources infrastructure, including reservoirs and water transfers, to provide a plentiful supply of water for future generations.
The report commits the Government to launch a call for evidence on setting an ambitious target for personal water consumption. Alongside this, we will hold a consultation to examine the policy options required to support the target. This will include exploratory questions around the labelling of water-using products, improving building standards, the future role of metering, and behaviour change including improving information for consumers.
The report also endorses the water companies’ commitment to reducing leakage by 50% by 2050.