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Environmental groups urge greater law scrutiny after Brexit

The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) and other professional bodies in the environmental sector say the Government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill fails to allow adequate Parliamentary scrutiny of changes needed for implementing legislation after Brexit.

The organisations have written separately to environment secretary Michael Gove and David Davis, secretary of state for exiting the EU, saying the bill threatens both the Conservative manifesto pledge to “be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it inherited” and Gove’s ambition for a “green Brexit”.

Their letters argue that the bill fails to provide for adequate parliamentary scrutiny or ensure that fundamental principles which underpin decades of environmental improvement are protected. They also complain about the lack of a ”meaningful framework” for independent scrutiny of future Government performance.

Devolved administrations should not be constrained from pursuing ambitious environmental policies and targets of their own as a result of the powers the bill creates, they say.

The group sending the letters is the Environmental Policy Forum (EPF), a network of professional bodies promoting environmental sustainability and resilience. As well as the CIWM, members include the Institution of Environmental Sciences, the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management and the Society for the Environment.

The letters call for the legal establishment of a new body, answerable to Parliament and fully independent of the Government, to provide the kind of scrutiny currently provided by the European Commission.

The bodies have also called for parliamentary committees to be able to rubber stamp or call in for scrutiny the large number of laws which ministers can approve under so called ‘Henry VIII powers’.

EPF chair, Professor Will Pope, welcomed the Government’s ambitions for the environment, with Defra’s 25-year plan imminent and a commitment to improve environmental quality for future generations.

“Yet plans without appropriate tools and measures for delivery and scrutiny will be doomed to failure,” he said.

“Brexit offers certain opportunities to manage our environment in a more effective manner, more bespoke to UK needs. Yet it also presents real risks that measures which have achieved cleaner rivers, seas, towns and cities could be eroded.

“We are calling for appropriate checks and balances to be established from the outset, to ensure we do not risk becoming the ‘dirty man of Europe’ again.”

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