Opposition members of the House of Lords have called on Defra to establish ways of holding the Government to account on environmental matters once the UK leaves the EU.
Liberal Democrats environment spokesperson Baroness Parminter (pictured above) and Labour environment frontbencher Baroness Jones of Whitchurch questioned Defra minister Lord Gardiner of Kimble about the department’s commitment to waste policy in a debate in the House of Lords.
Parminter said: “Not only has Defra a severely depleted number of staff in its agencies due to sustained budget cuts, but it will lose access to EU institutions and funding for research programmes and the vital collaborations that come with them.
“So what reassurances can the minister give about our capacity post-Brexit to continue to develop evidence-based environmental policy?”
She took aim at resources minister Therese Coffey for recent comments on how the Government could be held to account on environmental policy when the UK is outside the EU.
Parminter said that currently there are 10 cases relating to UK non-compliance over air pollution, energy, waste and water in the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) in December 2015 alone.
“Expecting individuals and organisations to fund costly judicial reviews cannot be the answer, as Dr Coffey suggested in a Westminster Hall debate earlier this week.
“Therefore, I ask the minister: will the Government commit to ensure the proper enforcement of future UK environmental legislation? What mechanisms do they see replacing and replicating the current enforcement role of the Commission and the ECJ?”
Baroness jones of whitchurch
Jones (pictured above) also expressed concern about recent comments made by Coffey, this time to the Environmental Audit Committee, in which she said she was not convinced about the concept of a closed-loop economy.
“The Government should reinforce the EU’s 50% recycling targets and embrace the principles of a circular economy. Perhaps the minister could commit to having a word with [Coffey] about this and reaffirm the Government’s intention to embed the policy in UK legislation.”
In his response, Gardiner (pictured below) did not address Parminter and Jones’ questions directly but did mention Defra’s upcoming 25-year environment plan.
“We will publish an environment framework shortly, which will start off a period of public engagement to help shape the 25-year environment plan. We aim to publish the full plan in 2017,” he said.
Lord gardiner of kimble