The environmental watchdog that will hold government to account over its environmental obligations after Brexit must have sufficient powers to penalise ministers, MPs have claimed.
These are the comments from the Environmental Audit Committee, a panel of MPs from across the House of Commons, who scrutinise the government’s work on the environment, chaired by the Labour MP Mary Creagh.
The Committee has recently concluded a review of the government’s draft Environmental (Governance and Principles) Bill, which will underpin future environmental laws once the UK has left the European Union.
Crucially this will include the mechanism for holding government to account over meeting its environmental goals which include targets for packaging and WEEE recycling, among other areas.
This would effectively replace the role of the European Commission, which has the power to issue sanctions against an individual government that has not met its obligations.
Instead, the government is proposing to establish an Office for Environmental Protection, that would ultimately take on this task.
However, having looked at the proposals for the new body the Environmental Audit Committee has questioned whether it will be independent from government, as well as having the power to hold it to account over its environmental responsibilities.
Committee chair, Mary Creagh, said:
“If we want to be a world-leader in environmental protection, we need a world-leading body to protect it. The Government promised to create a new body for governance that would go beyond standards set by the European Union. The Bill, so far, falls woefully short of this vision.
“Far from creating a body which is independent, free to criticise the Government and hold it to account, this Bill would reduce action to meet environmental standards to a tick-box exercise, limit scrutiny, and pass the buck for environmental failings to local authorities.”