House of Commons Library

Environment Bill 2019-2020

Published Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Environment Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech on 14 October 2019. First Reading was on 15 October and a Second Reading is scheduled for 28 October 2019.

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The Environment Bill 2019-20 sits alongside the Government’s longer-term objective for “this, to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than that in which we inherited it.” The Bill contains 130 clauses and 20 schedules.

The first part of the Bill is to provide measures to address environmental governance gaps following withdrawal from the EU and beyond. The Bill puts into legislation a series of environmental principles and establishes an Office for Environmental Protection, which will have scrutiny, advice and enforcement functions. It also makes provision for the setting of long-term, legally binding environmental targets in four “priority areas” of air quality, water, biodiversity and resource efficiency and waste reduction, along with the production of statutory Environmental Improvement Plans (the first being the January 2018 25 Year Environment Plan).

Part 3 of the Bill makes provisions for the managing of waste and producer responsibility. The provisions introduce a revised extended packaging producer responsibility scheme, the power to regulate for ecodesign standards and resource efficiency information across a wider range of products, and amendments to the responsibilities and powers for separating and recycling waste. It provides a framework for a deposit return scheme.

Part 4 of the Bill deals with air quality and amends the requirements and management of Local Air Quality Management Frameworks. It also provides local authorities with greater powers in smoke control areas and includes provision to require the recall of road vehicles on environmental grounds.

Part 5 of the Bill includes provisions relating to water resources management in six different areas: the development of joint regional plans for long-term water resource management, a statutory duty for water companies to develop long-term drainage and sewerage management plans, amendments to the water company licencing process, amendments to the abstraction licence process, powers to amend water quality standards and the land valuation process for internal drainage board (IDB) charges.

Following a commitment in the 25 Year Environment Plan, the Government published a consultation on Net Gain in December 2018. This was followed by a commitment to apply a requirement for biodiversity net gain of 10% for developers though the planning system. This gain will be measured using a biodiversity metric that has been developed by Defra. Part 6 of the Bill legislates for the creation of the net gain requirement, expands the duty on relevant authorities from conserving to “conserving and enhancing” biodiversity, and legislates for the creation of Local Nature Recovery Strategies to cover the whole of England. Part 7 of the Bill legislates for the introduction of conservation covenants.

The basis for many of the proposals have been a series of consultations and recent Government strategies (for example, A Green Future: Our 25-year plan to improve the environment), alongside the publication in the last Parliamentary session of a draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill.

Most of the Bill extends to England and Wales and applies in England. There are some parts that extend to the whole of the UK or apply to specific countries.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8712

Authors: Louise Smith; Lorraine Conway; David Hirst; Paul Bolton; Georgina Hutton; Jonathan Finlay; Elena Ares; Sarah Coe; Edward Potton; Sara Priestley

Topics: Environmental protection, Land law, Sustainable development, Waste management, Water

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