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Environmental Governance inquiry launched

18 May 2018

The Environmental Audit Committee launches an inquiry into the Government's proposals for a new environmental watchdog and its proposals to bring environmental principles into UK law after leaving the EU.

Defra's consultation on Environmental Principles and Governance after leaving the European Union sets out how the Government plans to replace the role of the European Commission and European Court of Justice in enforcing rules on air, waste, water pollution and protecting wildlife. It also contains proposals to bring the EU's environmental principles into UK law. These principles underpin EU policymaking, but were excluded from the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.

Chair's comments

Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:

“The EU's role in holding successive governments to account has transformed the UK from the ‘dirty man' of Europe in the 1970s, to a world leader on the environment. Ministers must ensure that our treasured natural spaces and iconic British species, and our ability to hold the Government to account on air pollution are not lost by leaving the EU.

“The new watchdog will not be ready in time for exit day in March 2019, and Green groups have criticised the proposed watchdog as toothless.

“We will be looking closely at whether the Government's proposals live up to its promises to keep high environmental standards after leaving the EU.”

About the Environmental Governance Consultation Paper

In January 2017 the previous Committee recommended that the Government introduce an Environmental Protection Act to ensure that environmental enforcement and governance mechanisms were not lost after leaving the European Union.

The Government committed to consulting “early in 2018” on “establishing a new, world-leading, independent, statutory body to give the environment a voice, championing and upholding environmental standards as we leave the European Union” in its 25 Year Plan for the Environment.

Terms of Reference

The Committee's inquiry will build on the written and oral evidence taken during its inquiry on the Government's 25 Year Plan for the Environment. The Committee welcomes further written submissions on any of the issues raised by the consultation. The Committee will, in particular, address the following questions:

  • Do the proposals in the Government's consultation meet the ambition set out in the 25 Year Plan to consult on “a new, world-leading, independent, statutory body to give the environment a voice, championing and upholding environmental standards as we leave the European Union”? If not, what more needs to be done?
  • Will a Governance and Principles Bill make all of the legal changes necessary to achieve the ambition of improving the environment for future generations?  Are other legal changes required to improve the environment and if so, what interaction will there be with the new governance and principles regime, and is it possible for them to be designed separately?
  • What are the risks of ongoing uncertainty about governance and principles while other major decisions are being made, e.g. on the Withdrawal Agreement and the Trade Bill?
  • Are the proposals in the Government's consultation adequate to meet the enforcement, governance and other gaps in environmental protection left by leaving the European Union? Are there any aspects in which they offer stronger environmental protection than existing arrangements? If not, what more needs to be done and by when?
  • Do the proposals in the Government's consultation set the basis for an appropriate relationship between the proposed body and other statutory bodies (for example, the Environment Agency, Committee on Climate Change, National Audit Office, regulators like Ofwat etc), Parliament and the devolved institutions? If not, what needs to change?
  • Whether the proposals in the consultation on incorporating environmental principles into UK law are sufficient to replicate or provide a stronger level of environmental protection than the existing arrangements? If not, what needs to change?
  • Is there sound logic behind the decision to exclude climate change from the remit of the new body?  Does this risk leaving the enforcement of climate change law weaker than the rest of environmental law?
  • What would be the benefits and weaknesses of a UK-wide approach?  Has there been sufficient collaboration between HMG and the devolved administrations on this matter, and are the right processes in place to agree the most environmentally rational settlement?

Deadline for submissions

The Committee aims to conclude its inquiry in time to report before the Government's consultation closes on 2 August 2018. Submissions should therefore be made by 5 pm on Friday 1 June 2018. Later submissions will be accepted, but may be too late to inform oral evidence sessions. You can submit evidence through the inquiry page.

The Committee recognises that organisations and individuals will also be producing responses to the Government's consultation. If you wish to submit these in place of a dedicated submission please mark this clearly on the submission. The Committee will consider these, but they will not be published as written evidence and the Committee will not be able to cite them directly in its report unless they have already been published.


The Committee values diversity and seek to ensure this where possible. We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence. We aim to have diverse panels of Select Committee witnesses and ask organisations to bear this in mind if asked to appear.

Further information

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